Where Are The Leaders?

Henry Kissinger’s new book on leadership highlights the vacuum.

“A world ends when its metaphor has died,” the poet Archibald MacLeish once said. It is at that moment of transition from a rupture in the old patterns of apprehending reality to the construction of a new metaphor when leadership most matters.

Rupture can come with a whimper, in which a way of seeing the world finally succumbs to the entropy of the outmoded. Or it can come with a bang, such as a devastating war. The daunting challenge, in either case, is how to convincingly frame the shifting spirit of the times in a manner that organizes the energy and direction of society into a force field that propels it along a fresh path.

In his latest book, “Leadership: Six Lessons in World Strategy,” Henry Kissinger examines several cases over the last century in which, in his view, key personalities admirably rose to the task. He distinguishes how two types of leaders — the “statesman” and “the prophet” — face challenges differently.

The statesman “tempers” visions of change with a realistic understanding of political and economic constraints as he or she seeks to open space for evolution while preserving their society “by manipulating circumstances rather than being overwhelmed by them.” In contrast, the prophet, or visionary, “treats prevailing institutions less from the perspective of the possible” than from a vision of the imperative to change the very definition of what is possible.

For Kissinger, the best leaders who made the most difference flexibly fashioned an “optimal blend” that successfully navigated constraints to realize new possibilities through evolutionary stability. This brings to mind the old adage that, without vision, people suffer; with vision untempered by recognition of ground realities, more people suffer. Think Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

The two personalities that stand out in his book are Charles De Gaulle and Lee Kuan Yew. (The others, less compelling to me, include Konrad Adenauer, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat and Margaret Thatcher.)

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Πηγή: noemamag.com

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