What does it take to make a leader?
Last night I watched ‘Inside Obama’s White House’ – I guess, if you want a mould, if you want a standard by which to define a leader, it is Obama.
I believe that ‘Obama’ is one of the greatest events/things/people to have happened in the 21st Century – admittedly, we still have 80 odd years left for folk to do things, but I feel that his style, sense of purpose, even his corey-fistedness makes him something special.
Back in 2007 when I was first appointed as a consultant, before he was ‘Mr President’ I read ‘Dreams from My Father’ and then, ‘The Audacity of Hope’ and subsequently, when I became involved with change processes at my work, probably in 2008, he was the man I turned-to; he was my go-to reference – I even included images of Pandora in my presentations, to explain the phenomenology behind ‘Hope’
And today, where are we?
Somewhere very different.
Sure, the promises, the plans that Obama wanted haven’t necessarily materialised, but he has pushed-forward the agenda – he has helped the transformation of attitudes to environment, human rights and society more than anyone else I can think of.
And now, when I look around me, at the every-day wishy washy figures who adopt positions of leadership within the scope of my world I don’t see many Obamas.
I don’t see many people who are content to place their egos to one side, for the greater good, with a smile and a wink.
We judge our leaders harshly, we offer them no compromise, no slack or even forgiveness – it is assumed that if an individual is happy to accept the mantle of ‘leader’ they also have bullet-proof skin, heart and soul;
Us humans, people who run about like sheep, well characterised in JJ Abram’s ‘Cloverfield’ or Rick Yancey’s ‘The 5th Wave’ are a little hypocritical at times – we are happy to judge others by standards that we could never hope to achieve, yet, we need their leadership, for without it we are lost. We find ourselves moving from impulse to impulse, from one moment to the next, seeking to find meaning behind the morass.
How on earth do we reconcile our need for leadership with our intolerance of inadequacy or failure?
We have fortunately moved beyond the notion of killing the person whose decisions have resulted in failed crops, lost battles or indecision; we resort to different strategies such as the ballot or organisational hierarchies – the latter, often paralysing us.
We have settled, at least for our government, on a five-year cycle of election and change.
What I might suggest is a more rapid turnaround for those who are leading organisations or collectives which are smaller than nation-states, perhaps a six-monthly vote, driven by those whose lives are dependent on the leader’s success or failure.
Us humans, like every other organism on the planet, are the result of evolutionary processes of natural selection, this has allowed us to be the best of the best; perhaps we can apply this same principle to leadership and allow our leaders to fit-in to the evolutionary cycle, where, only those who demonstrate their effectiveness, who are able to lead with care, compassion, wisdom and foresight are those who help us find our way?