Have the requirements for leadership changed?
Is it true that “The time of the great leaders like Churchill, JFK, FDR, and Golda Meir, is over because the world is too complex for one individual to know everything”?
Is it true that “One of the things that people need to master now is… not only to be like Reagan and Martin Luther King who were great speakers, but also to be a great listener”?
In a recent video my colleague, Thomas Zweifel, argues “yes” to all these questions. I disagree.
The Dangerous Myth of the “New.”
“Man does not live by bread alone, but also by the catch word.”
–R. L. Stevenson.
How many times do we need to fall for the myth of the “New?” A New World Order. A New Economy. A New Middle East. And now “New requirements for great leadership.” In centuries past there were the snake oil salesmen and their “new” magic ointments and today we have spammers and their new magic pills.
But, as King Solomon noted some 3,000 years ago, none of this is new.
No, King Solomon didn’t have an iPhone or a Blackberry. (At least, I don’t think he did.) He didn’t have the Internet or a nuclear war head. And he certainly didn’t tweet. But changes like these are superficial.
Then as Now, Great Leaders See Beneath the Surface.
“For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there’s one hacking at the root.”
— Henry David Thoreau
In the days following World War One, Woodrow Wilson spoke of “A New World Order.” We all know how that turned out.
It’s human nature to be deceived by the superficial. We see things change and we want to believe it will all be good now. (Well, except for those who want to believe it will all be bad.)
We want to believe that the candidate across the desk will be a great employee. We want to believe this big deal will come through. We want to believe… Heck we want to believe a lot of things that just aren’t true. And so we tell ourselves and each other all kinds of stories.
But when you pull back the curtain and look at the mechanics, you see that the complex forces motivating human behavior are what they’ve always been.
Legendary leaders see patterns, forces and the big picture. And they live accordingly, even in the face of ridicule and fierce opposition. Eventually, we see it too and realize their greatness.
It’s unfair to Reagan, Martin Luther King and the others singled out, to suggest it was their oratory skill that made them great leaders.
Reagan was great because he saw what others didn’t. Communism was inching around the globe and many leaders resigned themselves to a “new reality.”
But Reagan saw communism’s evil and recognized that one day it would collapse under its own weight. Despite ridicule, opposition and threats, he lived true to what he saw. The whole world is better off as result.
Leaders DON’T Need to Know Everything, and They Never Did
The world has always been too complex for one individual to know everything.
Great leaders simplify. They looked beneath the cacophony and asked “What’s really going on underneath?” “Where are the points of highest leverage?”
Warren Buffett was ridiculed during the early days of the “New Economy.” Many laughed, believing new technology meant things have changed.
Buffett guides himself with disciplined adherence to unchanging fundamentals and has become a legend in his own lifetime. But Buffett understood that the underlying mechanics never change. And look who had the last laugh.
How to Build Your Competitive Advantage
And so, you can use this to your advantage. Notice how your competitors get excited about what’s new. But you – you just smile and ask “How will these superficial development be influenced by that which never changes?” Help your customers see the unseen and they’ll never leave you.
It’s powerful to remember that in our complex world, we need people who can see what most don’t. We need people like Reagan, Martin Luther King, Churchill and Lincoln. And people like you.
About The Guest Author: Dov Gordon helps small company CEOs build such loyal employees and life-long customers, that even their competitors enviously spread their renown.