If I was to ask you, who you would name the greatest leaders of all time, who would they be? Would it be Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King or Mohandas Gandhi or even Steve Jobs? Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Now think of the people you have chosen and ask yourself exactly why are these people great leaders?
It is a bit like ticking boxes; is it because of their great vision, their passion, their trustworthiness, their innovativeness or even all the above? Alan Murray, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, argues that great leaders exhibit a paradoxical mix of arrogance and humility. Leaders must be arrogant enough to believe they are worth following, but humble enough to know that others may have a better sense of the direction they should take. Does that account for the leaders you chose?
There are plenty of theories that talk about leadership, but one I tend to lean more towards is behavioural theory. Behavioural theories of leadership are based upon the belief that great leaders are made, not born. Rooted in the concept of behaviourism, it focuses on the actions of leaders not on mental qualities or internal states. Thus, people can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation.
Moving away from the leaders you chose and back to reality would you say becoming leaders through teaching and observation is the case for certain leaders of today? Well, if we look at political leaders such as Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Monti this is debateable. Commenting on the G20 summit last week, Mr Darling, former UK Chancellor wrote in The Independent: "A leadership vacuum lies at the heart of the global crisis. The meeting of the G20 leaders was an abject failure just at a time when the world needs strong leadership and a clear sense of direction”.
Through the constant criticism and outlandish remarks, you would think these so called leaders would get the hint, but it appears they have gone into reverse gear. Yet more talks unravelled this week about the severe debt crisis, and it appears there is still no progress on resolving Eurozone debt after French, German and Italian leaders agreed to abstain from making demands on the ECB. It appears no one is really learning at all.
I’m not sure about you, but I am beginning to think whether they recognise what actually it involves being a leader and making important decisions? With the FTSE 100 taking a turn for the worse, with its longest losing streak since 2003, the current scene is looking bleaker than ever. It is about time someone steps up to the plate and starts to take some necessary action.
But the real question is who can “lead” such an attempt or more, who is capable of steering us out of this rollercoaster of a ride? Interestingly, I read on Monday even the President of Turkey laid into “the negligence, recklessness and ineptness” of European political and financial leaders during the crisis in the Eurozone, saying that his country’s proximity to the single currency bloc meant that it was being hit disproportionately by the European Union’s economic emergency. It is all very well him saying this, but it still provides no “leading” solution to the problem. All these supposed leaders criticise, but provide no valuable solution.
So what is the solution, if any? One conclusion might be that we need stronger leadership to steer us out of this horrible mess. Maybe, Merkel, Sarkozy and Monti need to consider taking a ride in the Delorean time machine to gain some ’visionary’, ‘innovative’ and ‘passionate’ advice from the great leader of our time and start acting, before things get completely out of control. Or, maybe even going back to the leaders you thought of at the very beginning, maybe won’t even do? Take your pick.