[December 18, 2015] As of this writing, there are several hot socio-political challenges – both nationally and internationally – that are worth a few words because they’ve put leaders under pressure to act correctly. Many leaders are being opposed by a swell of public opinion and with a hint of constituents’ anger.1 Of those, the great leaders will thrive on those hard challenges.
Likewise, weak leaders will either cave-in to mob rule, resign their positions, or look to scapegoat other people or events rather than doing what is right. Weak leaders will do what they can to avoid controversies, and when they cannot avoid they will use bureaucratic tactics to confuse. This includes an appeal to technical rules and regulations, obfuscating the issues, or creating committees to study the problem.
What weak leaders will not do is confront the challenges directly, with resolve and with respect to all those affected. Great leaders will quickly focus on the relevant issues and work to bring as many people together as possible to something greater. This is of course not easy to do and each circumstance requires a unique solution. That’s why a leader who has the relevant experiences is so valuable.
To illustrate, in the United States there has been a movement on university campuses for students to present “demands” that include racial quota hiring of faculty, restricting free speech, etc. (see link here). Many university leaders have shown weakness by giving into those demands, resigning their posts, and other various avoidance techniques; all of which damage the reputation of the university and its leadership.
Another example is the attempt by the international community to introduce ways of protecting their citizenry from acts of radical Islamic terrorism. To date the only major gathering of nations to address any worldwide problem has been on the subject of climate change.2 The news on climate change is that many debates have occurred but no real solutions have been accepted.
Great leaders thrive on hard challenges. Many of today’s problems are difficult; so have many in the past. We can look to history about what others have done in time of great crisis and they can offer us a model of how to think and act. But they cannot offer us a solution. That depends on leaders who are able to rally people to a great cause.
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- Some leaders have even blamed terrorism on climate change. This is a classic case of attempting to “redirect” people’s attention to something unrelated to their real concerns.