By Dr. Tim Ball Thursday, May 6, 2010
It is characteristic of all movements and crusades that the psychopathic element rises to the top. Robert Lindner
Various definitions of leadership exist and they are all vague as is the concept. “Leadership, a critical management skill, is the ability to motivate a group of people toward a common goal” or “The ability to lead skillfully.” The first seems to confuse management and leadership while both smack of manipulation. Neither hints at morality but assumes the people are being led in the right direction.
History shows that demagogues gain power when the people believe the society is drifting toward collapse and feel powerless. The demagogue is the siren of salvation, but the price is always disaster. Economic conditions in Germany created by the disastrous Treaty of Versailles provided Hitler with all the ammunition needed to seize power. Apparently we are now in a new situation where the disaster was knowingly and falsely created. As the 1974 report of the Club of Rome titled, “Mankind at the Turning Point” said, “It would seem that humans need a common motivation…either a real one or else one invented for the purpose…” Couple this with vicious attacks by the media and the use of legal intimidation on anyone in leadership and the vacuum for demagoguery is created.
There is a crisis of leadership at all levels of our society. It is most obvious in politics, but also true in business, religion, bureaucracies, and social institutions. Several events over my life have given clues about what is happening. A very well respected person was within three weeks of becoming university Dean with wide support. He withdrew and explained he was not assured of support and did not think the cost to him and his family was worth the price. By this he meant the continued attacks on anyone who dared to try and lead. Orchestrated by a small group who could not get power because their policies were rejected in the democratic process they simply undermined all leaders by finding minor flaws, which always exist, and inflating them beyond all reason.
I later served on a committee to find a new President for the University. We all made opening comments on the type of person we sought. Typically almost everyone, without realizing it, used the current situation as the measure; this is what we have now so we need the opposite. And so the pendulum continued its swing without consideration of any long-term strategy or needs. It is crisis management all the time. My comment drew ire because I said the person I wanted was too smart to apply for the job. In response to challenges I pointed out the budget was being cut, the buildings needed extensive and expensive repairs, the faculty were talking strike, the students were protesting fee increases, yet demands on services were exploding. Despite this many applied for the job, but what you get are people with only one goal, personal ambition and aggrandizement. It appears this is the environment that allows the element Lindner talks about to become leaders. How often do people interview well only to become disasters in the job?
Many executives and leaders of various segments of society are called before government committees in most nations, none with such regularity and vigor as in the US. Ostensibly it is a good idea to disclose the truth. Unfortunately, that is increasingly not the purpose. I’ve appeared before Canadian and US committees and the experience was very similar. My appearance and testimony was not used to understand or resolve an issue, but to make political points to advance a career. Regardless of your view about the issue and despite all the false niceties it is a bruising, bullying, nasty experience. Who would take executive positions knowing you could end up before such a committee. The answer is too often people with nothing but ambition. Ironically, this is also true of the politicians who participate in the hearings.
A well-known political commentator and author once told me there are only two types of people in political office. Those who say they have ideas to help the country and those who have ideas to help themselves. The ratio is the only thing that changes and right now we have a predominance of the latter. But who would run for political office today other than those who see great personal financial gain? More important, why would anyone put their head on the media chopping block?
The media has become the leader maker and the leader breaker. All of us have faults and it is not difficult to ignore them when they are promoting their choice. It is equally easy to find and expand them into career destroying issues. Thomas Carlyle quotes Edmund Burke saying, “There were three Estates in Parliament: but in the reporter’s gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important than all of them.” Today the fourth Estate controls what we hear about leaders in all parts of society, nobody is beyond their desire to make a career, sell a newspaper or achieve a rating. Manjoo talked about a Post-Fact society where proponents of an idea go out and find experts and evidence that provide support. This applies to the mainstream media in two ways. They report the ideas and expert evidence created by those seeking or holding power. They also produce their own expert evidence to support their stories. There is no other way to explain the mainstream media failure to report on the Climategate fiasco – indeed, as the emails revealed, reporters at major newspapers and media outlets were actively involved.
On November 11, 2008 I wrote,
“Will Obama continue his opportunistic populism? Was it merely a ploy to assure election? Will he pursue his goal of cap and trade and control of the economy as part of his historical views? The answer to the last question is likely yes because of ideology and the attractiveness of climate and environment to achieve control. As Walter Williams puts it, “The thirst to wield massive control over our economy helps explain the near religious belief in manmade global warming”. Maybe David Broder was correct when he said, “Anybody that wants the presidency so much that he’ll spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not be trusted.” If you add the phrase “compromising for it”, he is almost certainly correct.”
The orchestrated disaster that has rapidly and deliberately undercut the credibility of each segment of society shows Obama’s populism was opportunistic. He is not alone, other governments who used the climate issue to take control have driven their economies in to disaster. Who would step in as leaders to deal with the massive debts and deficits they inherit? A brief window into what they face is provided by the riots of mostly bureaucrats in Greece who were employed to perpetuate the government control. Whoever wins elections in these countries and replace existing governments face the almost impossible task of forcing austerity on the people? Leaders know what needs to be done, but they also know when it can’t be done.