Leaders Who Lead the Way

by on Thursday, 17 January 2008 Comments
At Renlai, we generally emphasize the importance of grassroots initiatives, the need for a vibrant civil society, and the necessity not to confide our destiny to so-called “providential” men. All of this is true, for sure, but, for a change, let me stress today how much our world also needs “leaders who lead the way.”

True leaders are not easy to breed and to find. Leadership requires a capacity for analyzing, getting down to core issues while disregarding secondary problems that might obscure the global vision; leadership is about making a few central choices and mobilizing means and resources for having these goals implemented throughout workable strategies. Leadership requires vision and courage, but it also goes along a capacity for judging and mobilizing people, for muddling through complicated systems and with complicated people, and for showing to all what the right move should be just by using the right word. Leadership capabilities are often distorted or perverted. One can use a capacity to understand and influence people in order to manipulate their fears and passions, one can mobilize a capacity to make bold and powerful assessments for making private interests win over public ones; and one can make the thirst for power substitute for visionary passion.

Today’s world requires exceptional leaders because we are meeting with exceptional problems. World problems are exceptional by their amplitude and their complexity. But they are also exceptional because we can mobilize resources for tacking them over, which was not possible so long ago. It is possible to overcome extreme poverty, to limit the effects of global warming, to manage our resources in a sustainable way, and to build up avenues of friendship and cooperation where hatred and rivalry predominate. But this requires investing our resources where it should be, mobilizing citizens over central issues rather than playing on nostalgia and diffidence, and to keep a firmness of purpose and vision.

Actually, only a true democracy can breed this kind lf leadership. When people are not afraid to speak up and to think freely, when they can first try their hand at organizing local associations and township governments, some of the most talented or passionate individuals will be able to compete for national power and to associate with other leaders in other countries and continents. At the end of the day, grassroots democracy is the field where leadership takes root, and true leaders can effectively lead the way only where there are grassroots movements to convince and to mobilize.

Photo by N. Priniotakis
Jacques Duraud (杜樂仁)

Board member of the Taipei Ricci Isntitute. Former Publisher of Renlai Magazine. 

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