The Art of Leadership and lessons from the Past – some general features

Organization clears your path

Organization clears your path (Photo credit: nist6ss)

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow”.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Albert Einstein

Countries and organisations at whatever level are the combination of all-around “living” and existing dynamics and the art of leadership is based on the concept that it is important to mobilise the existing recourses of available people in the right direction, – at all levels if possible.

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Not always do people change that easy, not always are existing structures at certain parts of the organisation or the country due to be changed despite being desirable to have change.  Timing is sometimes crucial and dealing with people at various sections and levels is the domain of the greatest challenge of leadership.

Our level of influence is largely dependent, not only on the vision we have and the ability to articulate this, – but both as well on our ability to  build  fundamental  trustworthy relationships, empowering others and get people in alignment with the bigger picture: the vision we emphasise.

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Trust is essential but not easy. People often have different agenda’s and where other’s are not always to be trusted, leaders in essence need to be trustworthy. Integrity fires off, integrity is like a lighthouse which does not move by the principle of light, – which does not disappear and gives direction, regardless the circumstances.

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So vision, direction, a way to articulate this vision, and trustworthiness are all fundamentals of sound leadership, – besides an ability to deal with people in such a way that it gives enough empowerment and leverage to work eventually at the same page of the agenda, – where eg agenda’s have been different.

Again the level of influence to achieve this needs to be able to mobilise and energize the recourses of  management levels at all existing creative and intellectual abilities, – to work things out as they should be.

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We all know that leadership and management are  not the same. Where leadership gives direction or a vision, management is the agreed strategic to meet this vision or goal. Where the leader has the insight which direction is best for either country, organisation or any other movement, – the ability to get the workers in place and organise the work to be done in such a way that the goal is achievable is a management issue. Even at management level it is important that people are led in the right direction of things to be done according to plan, and both at the level of leadership and management effective communication is the cornerstone to resolve issues as they arise, – at times conflict as well.

Integrity at all those levels is a principle issue where corners are not cut at the benefit of the cheapest option and the  loss of values or principles.

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Hitler started a war based on the most effective army being organised at the time and was from this point of view initially successful. His leaders at the various divisions of the “Third Reich” were highly efficient and able to communicate their vision at nearly all levels of society with passion and consideration of those who followed; – but the failure of Hitler’s “Third Reich” was that the concept of both integrity and value for life was totally lost and that the goal setting and vision of the man was deeply floored from the beginning.

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For every endeavour in society at the organisational level is the fundamental question whether the vision or goal setting adds value and respect for life, – besides financial gain to support the mission. If there is no margin there is no mission. We see already in the US after the Bush Administration how hard it is to create a mission with little margins as all the previous existing margins were wasted in often pointless war’s being dominated by powerful elements in society pushing their agenda, – not rarely against the wishes of many people, and not rarely in contradiction with basic respect for life.

The world is very complex now as the traditions of securing the power base of each country with enhanced military development, based on the often ill-defined principle of “national security”, are getting worldwide more and more out of control. Strong and value based leadership is required to avoid a world eventually being totally filled up with mass grave yards as such grave yards are often not more than a reflection that conflict could have been dealt with differently, – with more leadership, integrity and respect for life.

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History will always have areas of conflict but the means by which those conflicts should be resolved can’t be the means by which we have been able to inflict destruction at a large-scale.

Leadership deals with the future, with the way valuable aims and goals can be achieved through the power of the human spirit, the last often being required to be coached and energised in the right direction. Not by the increasing power of distinct evil being much prevalent all over the word, but by the power of trust, respect for life and differences, – besides mutual distinct coöperation to cut those evils which could put us all at risk if we don’t value the future for what it really could be. Values, ethics and principles are  at the heart of real leadership as it protects the immune system of an organisation or country from the undermining elements being always present anyway.  In physical terms the “Third Reich” of Hitler was a well-developed cancer being able to grow as this country had no proper functioning immune system based on principles values and ethics. If it had been present or more powerful at the time, the forces of a proper immune system would have been able to eradicate Hitler at an early stage as he would have been never an electable person with the level of influence he had. The level or lack of principles ethics and values being developed in a country or organisation, may attract the sort of leader which fits the type of country or organisation at some extend. It may accelerate change for the better or change for the worst. Hence by proper law enforcement each country or organisation would benefit from protecting the best in values being present, at all levels. Leaders come and go, in the best scenario they push forward to the next level. However, never allow them to compromise the values and principles on which the organisation or country is based. Allow them to reach the next level of the endeavour at a certain time and place, as pioneers for a  future we all need to embrace with compassion and courage.

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The value of society of any democratic or non-democratic country can be assessed by the law enforcement on both terror ( to protect life) in general and eg  the terror of human trafficking (= the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or a modern-day form of slavery) more specific.  Some 27-28 million people are eg held in slavery all over the world in countries least expected, many of them being children.  After drug trafficking and illegal arms trade, human trafficking is the fasted growing criminal industry not being tackled with the same efforts as eg “the war on terror” in Afghanistan. How countries respond to this is only one of the assessment tools to check whether our world is a world where human life is getting more respected or not, where countries are indifferent or not where it come to proper law enforcement to cut with passion and energy the crime rate at this level and let “the slaves go free”, – support them and punish the criminals who make eg human trafficking their business.
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Like Hitler and his movement was a cancer not being eradicated before it became a worldwide disease, the metastatic cancer of various other injustice against all forms of human rights needs the power of relentless law enforcement in favour of  the universal rights of people, where ever they may live, where ever they are born, –  and regardless who the criminals are.
In more practical terms on leadership and values, with accepting  the above as the baseline for leadership, the following can be said:
Places of leadership:
They are everywhere. In any organisation, large or small. Leadership is neither restricted to the young nor the old. Some have more to it due to circumstances in life, others have less to it due to misfortune and/or ill health. However within the group of the less advantaged the greatest leaders did evolve by motivation and choice, by desire and both by skill and ability to learn the lessons life has to learn a keen spirit. Sometimes people were placed in a position to take this role on board, not by choice perhaps (the circumstances itself), – but by choice to go ahead with what crossed their pathway unintended. It was the challenge they took willingly or unwillingly on board, often when times were tough, – where they could not afford it to be indifferent in times of hardship and uncertainty. Times of adversity and crisis made great leaders in history, by choice.  The last regardless the level of wealth or first status.
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Inspire vision:
Vision can bring the best of ourselves forward in the endeavours we have to face. But let us note that there are no strict rules for this. Every time when a leader stands up we may recognise some features, but the patterns following which the new leader develops are always different. For each person the background is different and each time requires a different vision as the circumstances through life do change. The needs do change as well and the way “vision” does evolve during the trials and tribulations of life is each time again different. However one of the features of a leader is that he or she is able to inspire a broader picture which does resonate at various levels. This is however a place by choice and sometimes it takes a long way to reach this position. It is not the end but often it is the beginning with various hurdles, – but the hurdles do need faith, determination, imagination, coaching teaching and involvement. In other words this vision comes from deep inside, it is a driving force requiring commitment and getting commitment in what people want to know about their own aspirations, want to hear about their own hopes and dreams in a particular set of circumstances. Inspiring vision is a shared thing.
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The matter to be trustworthy is essential:
Whatever comes to the surface in retrospect about some leaders,  people in general want leaders to be credible as this makes it possible to follow a leader. If you don’t trust the leader it is hard to trust what he or she has to say about your hopes and dreams. Leaders show in word and deed what they believe in. They are trustworthy – as Stephen Covey once put it – “at the personal level and the interpersonal level”.
Leaders are able to articulate their own deep felt values very well and the level of their integrity is in line with what they say and do. Part of being trustworthy is caring. Leaders do care of what lies ahead and they show it open and honest, at times affectionate. They speak to the heart of people and mobilise at times the best in people, whilst learning from their needs with an integrity of action to carry out what is required. The broader context of this trustworthiness’ is felt in a wider relationship with people.
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The matter of being proactive:
Leaders have a great capacity to anticipate and take charge of situations. They act in advance of a future situation, and not just reacting. They take control and make things happen and not just adjusting to a situation or waiting for something to happen. It has to do with the importance of courage, perseverance, personal responsibility and being aware that there are choices, regardless of the situation or context. Leaders have a sense of direction and look forward to this direction whilst applying at the same time their action of choice to reach this direction, with imagination. As such making people more capable to follow and manage their own actions in line with this direction. This being proactive may well be at the personal level, but it needs to transpire at the “team level” to get sustained results in a broader spectrum. It takes both proactivity and a team to bring people to the top of the mountain, – to become a CEO or President.
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Leaders don’t work on their own, but whilst doing their own work they work in collaboration and connection.
This is the focus of getting things done.
Thank you!

Paul Alexander Wolf

The Art of Leadership and lessons from the Past – introduction.

Photograph of Ralph Waldo Emerson House, Conco...

Photograph of Ralph Waldo Emerson House, Concord, Massachusetts, USA. This National Historic Landmark was the longtime home of philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”  -(Proverbs 29:18)

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – (Mark Twain)


Yes, it’s all about choices in life, – choices being so important as it determines where we will be in 3 to 5 to 10 years down the line. We did not realise this when we were kids or young adults, but after developing some corner stones in our own lives, – we all do realise it is important to make good choices as choices do find our outcomes, – not only at personal level but also at collective level.

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Most of those choices we have to make on our own, – guided by instinct or values. Guided by what we have seen in the past and hope for in the future. Sometimes it is 2 step’s forward and one step backwards. Sometimes we don’t know where to go or how to take it further, — but what we choose can make – at times – the difference between life and death, – between winning or losing, – between a bad marriage or a good marriage.

This means as well that if we are going to lose “inches”, we have the freedom of choice how we are going to lose those inches, – with dignity and respect or with non-civilised behaviour – the last we know has its extremes.

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The future is there where your dreams are, when you are prepared to take the first steps to get you there, – whether it is in art or politics or any other attempt.

We have all unique talents, to be used neither only for ourselves nor in the outcome of bad decisions, – neither only for the past but for the sake of our future, and those who will be part of this future.

When we have some sort of peace with ourselves amidst any trouble hardship or hard work, being able to apply certain rules of self-leadership, – we may be well on our way to attract what we need to attract to become good leaders in whatever endeavour in life, which means to connect in a broader sense with people helping our ideas to resonate in others, to bring movement or action where this is required.

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There have been many books written about leadership and good leadership is like a diamond with various aspects and different ways of viewing it, – like a beautiful stone which you can see from different angles. We will discuss this further but in this introduction I only want to touch base on a few basics. For sure a strong valuable vision for the future and obedience to your own well developed (God-given) conscious are important ingredients to influence people in the positive, – which if well articulated may it mobilize the talents, the capacities of the people within the domain of your influence. Hence clear direction being required, – direction which helps to realise this vision in a practical way.

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Real leaders have influence in the positive as they add value.  Hitler eg was an effective leader, – however without adding value to life in whatsoever way, without respect for life in whatsoever way. He may have had a vision, but he had no conscious. The difference with eg a mother Theresa was that she had apart from both passion, vision and direction, – conscious as well. And she obeyed this conscious.

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Conscious and integrity are people orientated, based on connection with values and principles, based on respect for life, – and the outcome is neither concentration camps nor major self-inflicted war. The outcome is always directed in the positive, in adding value to productivity, business management or government.

With some people in history their importance was recognised in retrospect, as at the time the establishment was against them. Their influence appeared to be small at the start perhaps, but after they died it grew. Not always be the real image as it was then, but sometimes with the image history gave it, with the first image being perhaps more powerful. Death in those circumstances is not always the real end and on occasions it signifies a new beginning. This applies eg to Jesus from Nazareth. He was rejected and despised by the existing establishment, the world at the time, – despite his followers in those days. However his impact was of such a nature that after he was killed his influence continued, often misunderstood among Christianity and Church doctrines. But for his believers he may seem as an “unknown”, asking the question to follow him.

Great leaders have followers.

The agenda of good leaders is to motivate people to do what is right, with an influence greater than existing resistance, – even in the hours of risks and danger. Often it has to do with prompt action by choice, with faith, with a strong belief in what lies ahead, – as action without belief of what lies may prove to be often empty action.

This flow of action in the positive requires both courage and commitment, both partnership and integrity, both trials and tribulations to strengthen the efforts, – but besides this humility, wisdom and shared vision.

Neither defeat where right is valued over what is popular, nor any adversity in the midst of struggle, – will be a deterrent for the true leader to get the required seasoning to be eventually effective.

Even faced with death we may be assured that nothing is terminal and that everything is transitional.

Leadership on its own is not a goal, the vision and the process are the goal. And if the last is strong enough, at some stage there may be the harvest of our actions, – sometimes long  after we have gone.

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For most of us leadership will be neither dramatic nor often seen in the public eye. We have leaders on the street and leaders in government. It does not make any difference. What makes a difference is that our creative expressions in life meet the needs of our fellow humans beings, that our unique talents may serve  humanity in the smaller and greater deeds, – and the art of leadership in all of this is a valuable tool in the right hands.

There are many lessons from the past, and this small introduction will be followed a number of articles and examples.

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If interested keep reading on those examples and find them in your own life.

Thank you!

Paul Alexander Wolf

Interesting might be: Profiles In US Presidential Violations of Justice – Front page (Part 1 of 11) on July 5, 2011

The  Art  of  Leadership  and  Lessons  from  the  Past – Edward M. Kennedy on October 29, 2011

The  Art  of  Leadership  and  Lessons  from  the  Past  – Gandhi. on October 27, 2011