[October 10, 2021] In 1936, critics called Winston Churchill the “number one warmonger” in Britain for writing that the German Nazis would cause a war on a larger scale than ever before. Churchill had something that only the greatest of leaders possess. He had the ability of seeing the world clearly.
Such insight requires talent to foretell the future by separating the central issues of the day from the everyday chatter. It means identifying an existing problem and the aptitude to communicate that insight into easily understood terms. These are the most forward-thinking leaders, and they characteristically do not easily anger; they are patient, understand that great things are difficult, and may take time.
The top story in the news this past year was the spread of the Coronavirus and the lives it has claimed worldwide. Its spread to the United States and other nations outside China caused panic in political circles, and poor decisions were made. The consequences of those political decisions continue to reverberate throughout the world. Some now say the “cure,” the decisions made to protect our citizens was worse than the effects of the virus itself.
These are no conspiracy theories, as some in the media are fond of saying. COVID-19 was no Black Swan Event; scientists have predicted such a virus for decades. COVID-19 didn’t appear one day and became a serious world threat the next.
Senior leaders must “see” the world as it is, not through the rose-colored glasses of an ideology or theory. Ideologies and theories help senior leaders frame events into a mental map. But those leaders who can go beyond these ideologies and theories will be the most successful of leaders.
Churchill understood this. When his country saw peace at any cost, he identified the danger and asked that Britain begin to prepare. Unlike today when leaders ask their countries to prepare for impending danger, those leaders were able to see the future. And sometimes, they will be mocked and ignored.
World leadership missed the COVID-19 virus. What other foreseeable force is pushing the world into a dark place? Many tell us that Islamic extremism is another and the misuse of nuclear fusion power-generation technology. Are there others? Certainly, there are and will be as long as humankind exists. When these waves of extremism and technology misuse pass, we can only look back and say how successful the leaders who gave us the warnings to be prepared.
Seeing the world clearly is a critical trait of exceptional leaders. It is not a prerequisite but a necessary trait of the greatest and most successful. Winston Churchill had a difficult time leading up to WWII, but once the war started and his country realized the gift he had, he was able to offer the greatest of leadership.
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