What is leadership?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the Italian parliament via video link, in Rome, Tuesday. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP) -
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the Italian parliament via video link, in Rome, Tuesday. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP) -

“We lack leadership in this country.”

“What do you mean?”

‘We lack leadership in this organisation.”

“What do you mean?”

“We lack leadership in this church, mosque, temple, school…”

Define leadership. What do you mean by “leadership?”

Does a good leader lead by the command-and-control method? Like Churchill? Whose leadership is credited with saving the western world from Nazi dictatorship?

So if he was such a great leader, why was he rejected as leader of his nation as soon as the war was over?

Was Hitler a great leader, when millions of his citizens obeyed his every word, to the point that the people of one of the most civilised and cultured countries in the world would follow his orders and those of his executive to torture, strip and murder thousands upon thousands of babies, small children, adults, elderlies, religious leaders, handicapped people, gypsies and scholars? Was he then such a great leader? Because he was obeyed?

There are people who would argue that he was.

Or Stalin, or Pol Pot, or Vladimir Putin?

What about St Augustine? His thoughts and standards are quoted daily still, 2,500 years after his death, and for better or worse are embedded in the laws of most of the world’s nations.

What about that poor ragged half-naked itinerant preacherman who was nailed to a cross, betrayed by one of his closest friends and followers? Was he a great leader?

His followers carried out his revolutionary directives, some dying as a result, for 300 years, until the Emperor Constantine hijacked his movement, made it into a state enterprise, as clever governors have been doing ever since, and made his teachings the basis of wealthy corporate enterprises and judicious investment portfolios, now richer than most countries’ GDP.

Is that leadership?

The heads of those lucrative enterprises still outwardly preach peace and love while the press says their followers practise abuse, child molestation, political dominance, and dictatorial rule, just as do the followers of other philosophies, religions, political movements, and the vast commercial enterprises that provide work, food, livelihoods, and shelter for most of civilisation throughout this sad and battered world we live in.

So leadership, like money, is not ethical or moral in itself, it seems. It depends on the use it is put to.

Members of the German parliament Bundestag give Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky a standing ovation before he speaks in a virtual address to the parliament at the Reichstag Building in Berlin, Germany on March 17. -

Are those who follow the military pattern, setting out strategies, and making plans to cover contingencies and following them, the ones to emulate, or those who “lead by walking around,” the people-oriented ones who understand people's needs and motivations and know how to communicate love and support the ones we should follow?

In the new discipline of psychometric assessment and measurement, it has often been observed that the key characteristic of successful managers is flexibility. They are the ones who make strategic plans but alter them when they “alteration find,” as the bard said.

They know the difference between the things you cannot change, such as the rise in the costs of raw materials, money, and international transport, which you are not in charge of, and those things that you can make a difference in through an intelligent combination of leadership of people, directing and encouraging their use of those resources through skilful ongoing measurement of the use of resources and motivating their useful deployment.

Whether the best leadership approach will be to lead from in front, as Putin seems to be doing in waging war, or to manage from within, as Zelensky does, to the astonished admiration of the world, or to lead from behind, as scholars have recorded, and from whom future leaders learn, is moot.

Political acumen is a leadership skill. If you listen to the news or read the papers, every day there are not only complaints of the mismanagement of state enterprises, there are also increasing complaints about not only a lack of leadership generally, as fewer and fewer competent people who do honestly want to avoid corruptly skimming off a “commission” from awarding a contract to a friend, just because “everyone does it," just avoid getting involved with government contracts.

This week’s press points out that when the well runs dry as it is doing now, they sink to the bottom of the muddy pile and do not get paid for work they have done or claim to have done, anyway.

In business, it is known that management skills, as well as leadership skills, are equally and simultaneously needed and how we fare as a country, as companies, as communities, and as individuals going into a risky future will depend on what happens over the next three months.

Where are our leaders?

It is not just being courteous to people and acknowledging their contributions to the enterprise. Every person born of woman wants and needs that in order to develop loyalty to the enterprise and motivation to continue through tough times, but it is also the discernment of what those tough times will be, how much they will cost, and accurate estimates based on accurate past records that cannot be managed without.

Those organisations that do not have those records simply have not done their homework and are going to suffer. You can’t know where to go unless you know where you have come from. The world is no longer free. It needs shrewd planning as well as even more shrewd estimates of what is to come to be able to lead and manage through the tough times ahead.


"What is leadership?"

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