Saturday, November 11, 2006

Moral Leadership and The Essence of Our Existence

Traditionally, leaders have been defined as those who hold power; allowing presidents, prime ministers and military generals, regardless of their accomplishments, to be considered leaders. And as I think back to my formative years, specifically my late teens and twenties, I cannot underestimate the extent to which world leaders had an impact on me (and the world). Basically, the handprints of people such as Ghandi, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., still remain central to my sense of meaning and purpose. Primarily, I hasten to add, it was because of their moral leadership and the basic values and principles for which they stood.

While watching the political campaigning over the past few months and the elections four days ago, in many ways I was very saddened. “Do we really have any leaders worth a damn?” I kept asking myself. And I believe James McGregor’s 1978 statement was right on the money: “One of the most universal cravings of our time is a hunger for compelling and creative leadership.”

In her wonderfully written piece, “The Most Influential Leader of the 20th Century,” Farah Nazarali-Stranieri ( says, "Leadership studies have been further detracted from ‘moral leadership’ because of the confusion of leadership with management. John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates are considered leaders for the economic power they amassed. The confusion of leadership with power and leadership with management has led to a model of leadership that is Machiavellian (manipulative), hierarchical, authoritative, impersonal, elitist, and self-interested.”

Having cut my teeth on the philosophy of Existentialism, and thus having primary concern for the essence of our existence – the meaning and purpose of our existence – I look around and down the road and not only ask, “Do we really have any leaders worth a damn?” but also wonder, “When may we ever have one again?”

Sadly, yet with continuing optimism, Bill

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