Wednesday, December 11, 2013



There were times in the history of the world when there existed leaders, of organizations and nations, who were invincible. Their words were their bonds. Nowadays, it is common to see peoples in leadership positions, all over the world, being doubted and suspected of all things evil.

In those days leaders led organizations or nations and the survival of the organizations and nations sometimes depend on each nation's leader. Nowadays an organization or nation with all its methodology, rules and procedures protects a failing leadership. Such a leader becomes a threat to the survival of his organization or nation.

Such a leader, if not replaced will result in his organization being replaced or his nation being downgraded or labeled as a rogue state or a nation that failed.

But behold!

Are the leaders of old being challenged by the same circumstances as the present leaders. Obviously not.

In a connected and borderless world that we live in, where truths and lies criss-cross in cyberspace, followers and leaders can all be cheated by damaging information.

But of course, leaders are not judged by one incident over a short period, but over many happenings over time.

But a scale should be provided as a guide in determining whether individuals are positioned in leadership positions for the wrong reasons.

Such is the choice of title for this blog entry.


Thousands of books have been written on the subject of leadership. Even in our family's first generation library named PERPUSTAKAAN TOETY JUAIRIAH there are more than 1,000 books on leaders, in the form of biographies or autobiographies, and leadership. Among the latest 2013 collection is one entitled "LEADERSHIP and the ART of STRUGGLE"  sub-titled "How Great Leaders Grow through CHALLENGE and ADVERSITY", by Steven Snyder.

In the forward to this book the author of the book "True North" Bill George, wrote:
- 'It was the life stories of these leaders that shaped their leadership. Their challenging times and crucibles stoked their passion to make a difference through leading.
Some of their failures - and nearly all had experienced set-backs or great hardships - had resulted from abandoning their roots and not staying grounded in who they were.
We labeled this period as 'losing their way.'
Others face challenges not of their own making, which nonetheless were life changing.
Those who went on to greater success as leaders maintained fidelity to their life stories and who they were - their True North.-


According to Steven Snyder 'leadership is often a struggle. 'Societal taboos', he maintained ' often prevent leaders from talking openly and honestly about their struggles for fear of being perceived as ineffective and inadequate.' 'Social mores reinforced the myth that leaders are supposed to be perfect and that struggle is a sign of weakness and a source of shame.'

However, in this connected age, where almost nothing is a secret anymore, not being honest is itself considered being ineffective and inadequate.

Snyder wrote, 'The best leaders learn to sidestep these unrealistic expectations by accepting themselves for who they are today while continually striving to be better tomorrow.'

'Struggle is a natural part of leadership.'

'The struggle itself unlocks the potential for the greatest growth.'

'Some leaders are not aware that their behavior is counter-productive.'

'They have no awareness of how their own choices and blind spots get them into trouble, and they blame others for their misfortune.'

'Some continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over.'

'Great leaders use failure as a wake-up call. Instead of blaming others, they seek out the counsel of a mentor and/or turn their attention inward for reflection and introspection.'

But then the mentors and advisors should be honest and competent.


Joe Badaracco and his students at Harvard Business School studied leadership through the lens of literature. After examining such works as Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer, and Chinue Achebe' Things Fall Apart Badaracco concluded that:

'Leadership is a struggle by flawed human beings to make some important human values real and effective in the world as it is.'


Dick Schultze, founder and former CEO of consumer electronic giant Best Buy, who built the company to more than US$50 billion in sales over 180,000 employees, said it best when he said. 'I don't think that there has been a year in my 45 with the company that hasn't been beset with struggle.'

'With every episode of struggle, there is a learning opportunity.' added Schultze.'


It appears therefore that a life without a real struggle is lesser prepared for leadership.

It is a real tragedy for an organization or nation if the only time its leader is struggling is when he is already in leadership position, and in the process of him facing all the challenges, as a learning experience, he puts the organization or nation at great risk.

In such a situation the members of an organization or citizens of a nation have no one else to blame but themselves. An organization or a nation, they say, always gets a leader that it deserves.

No comments: