Leadership as the ability to cause other persons to act in desired ways for the benefit of the organization or group
As the citizens of the United States prepare for the passing of the baton to another President, it might be worth it to pause and reflect on leadership and power. Many are having Second Thoughts about what to do to influence the passing of the baton to another incumbent.
For that matter, our reflections turn to consider what is leadership? What is power? How can leaders positively influence the action of others? Is there a right way? Is there a wrong way? Does it differ at the worldwide level from that of the organizational and individual levels? These questions have tugged at my mind as I contemplated the sources of power and sought to identify individuals in organizations who exemplify these attributes.
Selacuse in his book “Leading Leaders” discussed the category of powerful people whom he defined as the ‘elites’. Despite the natural negative connotation derived from this term, these are individuals who have “more” – more education, more talent, more money and more clout than ordinary people. Their knowledge, skills, money or power give elites (customarily leaders) special privileges.
A Bushy Comparison
Persuasion before action
Moreso Selacuse defined leadership as the ability to cause other persons to act in desired ways for the benefit of the organization or group. He conveyed an interesting spin on contrasting leadership at the presidential level. A comparative analysis was done on the leadership style of President George H.W. Bush with the leadership of his son President George W. Bush. Father Bush strongly believed that if other nations were to join the coalition to drive Iraq from Kuwait, the United States had to take an active, energetic leadership role in convincing them to join the coalition. He believed that leadership required diplomacy across a broad front and exhibited this through direct contact with other world leaders. Moreover, he did this through diplomatic missions; through action at the United Nations and other international organizations; through foreign embassies in the United States; and through American ambassadors abroad – to build and maintain a coalition of nations united in their efforts to achieve the goal to drive Iraq from Kuwait. George H.W. Bush’s leadership was based on persuasion before action.
If you build it will they come?
In contrast to his leadership style, his son George W. Bush acted under the belief that other countries had no choice but to follow the United States. George W. Bush and his administration believed that leadership by the United States seemed to flow automatically from its status as the world’s only superpower. At the time, the administration made it publicly clear that if other countries did not follow the U.S. into the war against Iraq, they would go to war alone. That certainly deviated from the importance of creating a coalition. They believed that unilateral action by the U.S. would naturally lead to multilateral action by other countries. The “if you build it they will come” doctrine expressed the belief that the United States was a unique country not just in terms of its power but also its moral authority for using that power.
To summarize this comparative analysis, Bush – the father, had broad experience in international diplomacy and long-standing relationships with world leaders at that time. He intimately knew and was on a first-name basis with national leaders and used this to his advantage to influence worldwide leaders. On the other hand, his son had no previous diplomatic experience and did not know the foreign leaders. Therefore, he often delegated important tasks to other members of his administration. Naturally then, he did not have the influence that his father did. In my opinion, this was indeed an interesting view on the issue of leadership and power at the global nation-wide level.
Definitely something to consider as we step into the future of our country, organizations or at the individual level of leadership, power and success.