[January 24, 2016] It has been written repeatedly among those who study leadership that one of their most sought-after characteristics is the ability to unite people for a common cause. Such a rare capability is desirable in the obvious but requires great strength of courage, broad experience, and wisdom. To unite is the epitome of greatness.
“Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead is the watchword of the wise.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – German Writer and Statesman
Of course, there are many examples throughout written history that demonstrate that people can be united in a cause that is catastrophic and even perhaps evil. Causes that inspire can be either good or bad. But to rally folks to something that is good requires extraordinary effort and extreme skill in a leader. As such it is indeed rare to find it any leader.
Senior leaders who possess the ability to unit people for a common cause are sought after for their talent and the results they produce. As we watch the political debates in the United States in the run-up to the presidential election, it is interesting to see who is attempting to unite and who is trying to divide people.
For example Socialism, beautifully sounding at the emotional level, is inherently about dividing society and pitting one against another. Along with its variants, socialism is an ideology that is based on the notion that people are oppressed and the strongest way to ensure victory for them is to unite and to rebel against those at the top. Historically it has failed and caused unimaginable death and misery (see my notes on socialism here and here).
If we observe each of the U.S. presidential candidates we can educate ourselves in those who are talking about bringing people together and making a better America versus those who speak of pitting one segment of society against another. Students of leadership would do themselves a favor by watching any of the debates and speeches by each of the candidates to see who desires uniting people or not.
Senior leaders must possess the ability to unit people for a common (and good) cause. Even when leaders lack the ability to bring people together, it is imperative that they consciously embrace the ideas of unity and work hard to improve that trait in themselves. Otherwise, failure awaits. Great leaders are distinguished from all others by this characteristic alone.
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