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 

Paul Alexander Wolf

Our future lies in our children as well!


Vietnam

Vietnam (Photo credit: jamesonwu)

Our future lies in our children as well!

Fortunately, in history, we still  have remarkable  people, – people who left their foot prints, their legacy,  at the times they lived.

People who reflected courage at times of the worst violation of human rights.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian before and during the 2nd World War, saw  the dynamics leading to the upcoming of Hitler. He sensed at an early stage the dangers and went to the US, – realising however that he could not commit to a post war engagement without being involved in the German resistance against Hitler.

He returned to Germany and during the 2nd world war he became increasingly aware that taking Hitler out of the total picture could perhaps save millions of lives.

He engaged himself in a plot to take Hitler’s life but by “miracle” (as Hitler called it),  2 serious assassination attempts failed very closely. It did reinforce Hitler however in his belief that he was supported by supernatural powers.

Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Gestapo and put in a concentration camp. Just before the end of the 2nd world war he was killed  following explicit instructions from the German government. He left some literature providing an insight in the moral dilemma’s he faced with taking an (evil) life, – to preserve many other lives.

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He was an example of true courage.  He said once: “>The test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children<.” – I would like to add to this that the moral value of a society is neither its reputation in the world nor its gross national product. The level of greatest morality in society is far more connected with the way its looks after its children, the elderly and the frail, – facilitating optimal education to offer people a future with value and dignity, in peace.

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This world is still a world where children do suffer. In various countries uprooted by civil war, poverty and lack of basic education. Besides this there are many countries where many thousands of children (millions perhaps) are sold or disappeared in the sex trade or child pornography. Daily abused in the most horrible dimensions. Often the perpetrators walk free as e.g the case recently with a Belgian Arch Bishop. He abused children in his care and in the 21st century in Belgium, he was only advised to leave the country – without any prosecution.

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Not to speak about countries reigned by some dictators, often far worse, – but these dimensions about child abuse are almost at a global level. This is the violence different from the bomb at night in Gaza, slower than the shot in Afghanistan, – but at least as deadly in terms of physical and mental torture. It is the silent violence and the slow decay within existing institutions supposed serving the countries, – like e.g. in  Belgium, where high-ranking government officials have been involved in  pedophile rings, and where some influentially in the top of the Roman Catholic Church walk free.

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This violence again is different from e.g. the violence applied by the US in Vietnam some decades ago, where the US Government was in a place to decide which areas in Vietnam would be destroyed with mass bombardments. It is the violence different as applied in many other pointless war’s as happened e.g in Iraq. Nevertheless it is often institutional violence, like it was institutional violence which intervened in John F Kennedy’s Presidency of the US, with high-ranking Governments officials being involved with cover up’s at the highest level of US Government. It was this institutional violence as well which killed both Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert F Kennedy during the anti Vietnam-war demonstrations,  – preparing as such (in a way)  the winning campaign of Richard Nixon.  Even in the US there are potentially dangerous dynamics if not wisely put to an end.  Still e.g. the Iraq war and 9/11 left many unanswered questions and if the Bush administration with Dick Cheney & Donald Rumsfeld would stand trial in an International Court of Justice, the verdict could be less favourable than most people would think, – if all available evidence would be presented. The potential however in the US reflects still the choices being possible to change the political climate, which is different from some other countries. The choices of not allowing the past to become the future of our children. The statue of liberty however has only value with a supplementary statue of responsibility in the White House. If the US would falter and loses its freedom it is: “because we destroyed ourselves”, – Abraham Lincoln once said.

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Neither western democracies nor countries elsewhere on the world are free of failures of both judgement and perceptions, but  with democracies is has been rarely necessary to put dissidents in jail whilst this seems common practice in those countries where there are no free elections. The beauties of a democracy remain restricted if  most value their right to remain indifferent against potential evil systems tolerated in their own society. Every democratic country gets the criminals it deserves in the highest positions, where there is a free vote, – but on the other hand each free vote can add to the law enforcement being required. People being elected at various levels of government do represent the choices of people and in real democracies it is not really justified to blame politics for everything, – as everyone in those positions of government can be replaced through those who are committed to their democratic votes and the legitimate need for change. The dynamics in e.g Syria are far less straightforward, especially when the crack down on dissidents is relentless and supported by Teheran.

Nevertheless certain countries can’t continue killing their own people without repercussions on the long-term. It happened in the former Yugoslavia and there are still trials in The Hague with generals involved in genocide and all other abuses of human rights.

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Like the principle of non involvement in business does not work in the time of knowledge workers, non involvement does not work in the business of the political administration of any country, and most of the non democratic leaders are operating from obsolete and inflated paradigms driving their countries on the brink of disaster.

In 2008 the US made a choice for profound change and Barack Obama became the first African American President. Despite a multi trillion federal budget deficit inherited from past Administrations, he was able to carry out various reforms. Without compromising on the needs for the children, the frail, the elderly and the middle class he needs to find ways to attempt a significant reduction in the federal budget deficit to keep the US a sustainable country. No representative of the Republican Party during the 2012 elections will prove to have similar credentials as this first African-American President, who may prove in retrospect  to be one of the finest US Presidents in history, – provided being able to serve his 8 years term in office.

Education is the key to help less privileged groups to better standards of living all over the world. It can push countries to the next levels of their endeavours. The inhumanity and dilemma’s of this swiftly changing planet can’t be resolved by ongoing oppression of groups who want to see positive changes in their society. The world can neither be moved by those who represent a dying history of obsolete principles of government, with full prove that it does not work, – nor can it be moved by democracies with decay in their systems as allowed by those having a free vote. Our security can’t be secured anymore by nuclear warheads. – Security is far more likely to be settled in the way reason meets across the borders of division. The future will be an achievement for those who find ways to work together at the forefront of those challenges in our time.

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The world is wicked dark and grey, despite its beauties on many of its corners. Obstruction is in the midst whilst oppression does not leave from the streets. If we ask the children all over the world what makes their times bad, they will tell. They will tell the stories about hunger and dysfunctional families. They will tell their stories about violence and rape. They will tell the stories about schools without books. They will tell the stories about friends being gunned or knifed down. They will tell the stories about trading childs for sex in Taiwan and Cambodia, apart from other countries. It is this silent violence which goes barefaced often under the protection of civil servants or in some countries – the church. The grievances of many under oppression are loud and clear but often not heard. Often they are wiped under the carpets. Those carpets often so nicely shining from the top, but so dusty and dirty at the bottom where nobody looks.  As long as the world will exist there are always wicked leaders who ruin the ethical principles of life by wearing out the people who refuse to remain indifferent towards human suffering and humiliation.

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Through the agony of deep divisions we need to change our world by our choices. We need the world and the world needs us. ….Those who take history as a relentless master in the challenge to keep both reverence for life and diversity, will always meet the world as a strange place, – whilst it take miles to make it change. However there is a time fixed for this…This time will come at the fittest time where people will be set free… This optimism takes no account of the present but is worth both enduring inspiration vitality and hope for the future, – where others have resigned to claim the future for themselves.

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And still, we see this hope and optimism in children.  And don’t let us forsake them, – they are our future!!

Thank you!

 Paul 

Paul Alexander Wolf

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdGkf5Kb2w&feature=player_detailpage

https://paulalexanderwolf.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/on-the-issue-of-human-trafficking/

https://paulalexanderwolf.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/we-dream-of-things-that-never-were-and-say-why-not/