Where did the Great Leaders go?

Where did the Great Leaders go?

October 11th, 2013 // 4:24 pm @


Where did the Great Leaders go? 

Our world does not seem to have the truly great leaders we once did, Ronald Regan, Margret Thatcher, Marin Luther King, Gandhi and many more. One may have agreed or disagreed with what they stood for, but they were all capable of changing what was possible.

Now we have many good pragmatic leaders, Barack Obama, David Cameron, Angela Merkel and the rest. These are bright people who work well within what is perceived as possible, but they seem incapable of rising above that to become great leaders. They seem stuck in the mechanics of what is happening not in defining a new vision.

It is a harsh test to define truly great leaders as those who can rise above what is perceived at the time as possible, but I believe it is the mark of great leadership. It comes from their huge personal belief, intelligence and courage.

As an example President Franklin Roosevelt moved the US from strong isolationism in the mid 1930’s through the defending of convoys in the Atlantic early in the war, lend lease, and finally to all out war. Ultimately the Japanese decision to attack the US and Germany’s declaration of war took the US the final step, but over a decade the President had moved US opinion a massively long way. When he started the perceived wisdom was that such a move was impossible.

Margret Thatcher, love her or hate her changed the very nature of what was the central ground in UK politics. The mark of her success was the Blair government, which did very little Thatcher, would not have approved off, as he understood the change she had made and adapted the Labour party too it.

Over the centauries we have seen these great leaders capable of changing what was possible, Castro, Churchill, Mandela, Mao, Lincoln and they are so famous we recognize them by one word of their names. It is however hard to name anyone in that league today.

Today we have leaders who seem to be experts at working within what is perceived as possible, but not in achieving what seems beyond the accepted definition of possible. Barack Obama, David Cameron and Angela Merkel work within the system as it is but seem unable to change it. This is a tough judgment, but if one seeks to lead major countries then such a tough criteria for success is justified.

Two questions come from this observation; one is what is the impact of this lack of game changing leadership, and why has it gone?

As to the impact we have several world issues of significant magnitude, the Euro crisis, world economic slow down, the broken working of the US government plus the dysfunctional EU. Our leaders have as yet not allowed these issues to cause total melt down, but nor have they solved them, or even to provide a real vision of how they might be solved. All these issues are still very much alive and threaten to come to the fore at any time.

Secondly is the question of why? I am sure great leaders still do exist, but they are not getting to power?

Possibly we are now very politically correct; Churchill’s drinking might well have stopped him even getting to parliament today, let alone to run the country. It has been said “Few great men would have got passed personnel” and there is truth in that.

I think we now pick our leaders by a process of excluding what we see as dangerous traits, not a positive search for great leadership. And most great leaders have had significant faults.

It reminds me of the issue Ford the car company hit in the 1990’s. They had extensive focus groups and every criticism of the tested car was taken very seriously, and the offending characteristic changed.

This produced cars with nothing anyone really disliked, but what was left was a car so devoid of anything positive no one bought them.

I suspect we are doing the same with our leaders, and sadly I see little chance it will change in the near future.






Category : Blog &Leadership

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