A RECENT discussion on leadership had me blurting out this matter of “inspired leadership” that had, quite accidentally, generated a good deal of interest that I’ve been asked to expound on it. Yes, I have read of this School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL) in India where skills and talents are honed for future captains of industry. Further articles on inspiring leadership can be found in business bibles like Forbes and Bloomberg.
In the context of our discussion, and the national pastime that is politics and the 2016 national elections, I said I believe that most important of all we need inspired leadership if we are to get out of this rut we are in now – whether it be very domestic and parochial as Metro Manila’s traffic and transport woes, to the broader area of geopolitics and China’s creeping invasion.
I contend that “inspired leadership” is defined in the twin manifestations of inspiration and leadership: first, the leader must be inspired – have that fire in the belly – to truly serve the citizenry and not simply doing a chore or a job. The inspired leader must have a clear vision and the creativity and flexibility to fulfill that vision. “Ayaw? Eh di, ‘wag!” simply does not cut it. You try various avenues or alternative approaches to get the goal. The leader listens, builds consensus, and then takes that leap of faith and acts. Analysis paralysis is not an option.
Second, inspired leadership means getting your citizenry to march with you. That fire in your belly must inspire others to allow you to lead the charge forward. It all starts on the day after elections. The country, highly polarized by the mudslinging and personality bashing of the elections, must be healed. The victor must be an inspired leader and shed all ill feelings of hurt and betrayal and the citizens, for their part, must shed all tribal instincts and hold the new leader with due respect and support for the common good.
In my research for this “inspired leadership” I came across this website about the world’s women leaders. It was a substantial resource on heads of state and governments all over the world and had charts of them and their rise to the highest office of their respective countries.
One chart specifically caught my attention:
Born in Russia but raised in the United States, Golda Meir was one of many young Jews who emigrated to the British colony of Palestine in the early 20th century. A leading Zionist and labor activist, she was one of the signatories of Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence. In 1949 she was elected as a Labor Party delegate to the first Israeli parliament, and served in a number of cabinet positions under prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol, before succeeding to the office of prime minister herself, following Eshkol’s 1969 death.
As prime minister, Meir’s term was dominated by the so-called “Yom Kippur War” of 1973, in which Israel was unexpectedly invaded by Egypt and Syria. Though the war severely tested Meir’s leadership, Israel was ultimately victorious, once again demonstrating the country’s military strength in the face of hostile neighbors.
Our trust in our government and leaders have been so eroded that many are being led to believe that we can do without government, a sort of noble anarchy that will have individual and corporate citizens just do what they want to do to move forward so long as it does not hurt anybody, or worse, supposedly serves the greatest good. Wrong. This thinking just serves the moneyed, the entitled, the oligarch.They were not saints. And neither were their terms of office perfect, free from flaws and turmoil. But their leadership was inspired and inspiring, leaving a legacy that had their country marching off to battle no matter the odds.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India (1966-1977, 1980-1984) b. 1917 – d. 1984
Though not related to the famed Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, Indira was the daughter of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and was elected to lead his political party, the Indian National Congress in 1960, following his death. After serving in the cabinet of Prime Minister Bahadur Shastri, she in turn succeeded to the office of prime minister following his death in 1966.
Gandhi’s two terms were tumultuous and eventful, and saw episodes such as a 1971 war with Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir, the development of an Indian nuclear weapons program, and a so-called “Green Revolution” in farming that transformed the country’s agriculture. Her tenure was not a positive time for civil liberties, however, and for much of her rule parliamentary democracy was all but suspended. She was assassinated in 1984.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom(1979-1990) b. 1925 – d. 2013
The daughter of a shopkeeper, Margaret Thatcher was elected to the British Parliament in 1959, and served in the cabinet of Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath from 1970 to 1974. In 1975 she was elected leader of the Conservatives, and was elected Britain’s first female prime minister in 1979. Re-elected twice before resigning in 1990, she remains one of the longest-serving female world leaders of all time.
Fiercely ideological, Thatcher was best known for steering her political party and country sharply to the right through an aggressive agenda of tax cuts, privatizations, union-busting, and cuts to government spending. In 1982 she led her country in a brief, successful war against Argentina to liberate Britain’s Falkland Islands from foreign invasion.
President Corazon Aquino of the Philippines (1986-1992) b. 1933 – d. 2009
Corazon Aquino rose to prominence as the wife of Benigno Aquino, a leading opposition politician under the long dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Following her husband’s assassination in 1983, she assumed the leadership of the anti-Marcos opposition, eventually emerging as the leading opposition candidate in the 1986 presidential election, which she won, despite massive fraud from the Marcos campaign. Her inspirational story earned her the title of TIME magazine’s 1986 “Person of the Year.”
As president, Aquino led a highly reformist government that introduced a new, democratic constitution and removed the various political restrictions that had contributed to the repression of the Marcos years.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan(1988-1990, 1993-1996) b. 1953 – d. 2007
Educated in England, Benazir Bhutto assumed the leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party in 1979, following the execution of her father, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. A leading opposition figure under the dictatorship of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, she was elected prime minister of a coalition government in 1988 after his death.
Bhutto’s two terms in office helped democratize Pakistan after years of dictatorship, but her government was also accused of widespread corruption. After losing office a second time in 1996, she spent much of her later life once again in opposition, this time to the new dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. After a period of exile, she was assassinated in 2007, shortly after returning to the country. Her husband was then elected president in her place.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany(2005- ) b. 1954
Merkel grew up in East Germany where she worked as a chemist. She became active in politics following the reunification of east and west Germany, and in 1991 she was elected to the unified parliament under the conservative Christian Democratic Party and served as a cabinet minister under the government of Helmut Kohl. In 2000, she became head of the party and in 2005 was elected chancellor (prime minister).
Following the crippling worldwide economic recession of 2008, Merkel has emerged as one of the world’s most powerful leaders, due to her tight command of the Europe Union’s largest economy. Though her government has been financially generous towards some of Europe’s more troubled nations, she has also pressed hard for austerity reforms to play a prominent role in any plan for long-term economic recovery, both at home and abroad.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia (2006 – ) b. 1938
An economist by profession, Sirleaf was educated in the United States before returning to Liberia to serve in the government of President William Tolbert, until his overthrow in 1980. Living mostly in exile, for the next 25 years she would make numerous attempts at a political comeback, but routinely faced jail terms and charges of treason for her activities. In 2005 she assumed the leadership of the united opposition to new dictator Charles Taylor and in 2006 was elected president following his exile.
Sirleaf’s presidency has focused mostly on rebuilding Liberia’s democratic institutions and fostering national reconciliation after decades of civil war and oppression, as well as helping modernize the country’s economy. In 2011 she became the first-ever female world leader to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
They were not saints. And neither were their terms of office perfect, free from flaws and turmoil. But their leadership was inspired and inspiring, leaving a legacy that had their country marching off to battle no matter the odds.
Our trust in our government and leaders have been so eroded that many are being led to believe that we can do without government, a sort of noble anarchy that will have individual and corporate citizens just do what they want to do to move forward so long as it does not hurt anybody, or worse, supposedly serves the greatest good. Wrong. This thinking just serves the moneyed, the entitled, the oligarch.
The ordinary folk, the poor and downtrodden will have no voice. Government is the regulator, law enforcer and protector of all. It is the equalizer for all citizens. Those tasked to govern, those elected into office, are expected to lead in this manner.
Inspired – and inspiring – leaders must be the choice in 2016. The alternative will be getting ourselves a shovel and digging ourselves into a deeper hole.
* For more on the women leaders you can click to this link: http://www.jjmccullough.com/charts_rest_female-leaders.php