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Four Levels of Leadership

Image courtesy Guardian.com

Image courtesy Guardian.com

Great leadership is an elusive quality that we all think we recognise when we see. It takes hindsight and history to set a final seal of approval on an individual’s greatness as a leader. Among the many ways of looking at leadership, here are four classes or levels of leadership, in ascending order of quality. To which one do you belong?

I Did It: The most common type of leader belongs to the ‘I did it’ school and cements a reputation by constantly highlighting his/her own role and the positive accomplishments that result. This is probably the most common and the most rudimentary form of leadership. The vast majority of political leaders in the world today fall into this category.

S/He Did It: With more experience, maturity and personal growth, a few managers stop managing and become true leaders. In such cases, all members of a team have no hesitation in acknowledging that the group’s successes are a reflection of the values imbued by its head. After a task is successfully accomplished, the team gives the leader credit and says, “S/he did it.”

We Did It: There is a subtler form of leadership that stresses inclusivity, strives to bring out the best in people, and is cloaked in benevolence. The benevolence may be skin deep or may go deeper than that. In either case it is more effective than the first two levels. Anyone fortunate enough to work in an organization with this kind of leadership identifies completely with the tasks to be accomplished and takes ‘ownership’ in the best sense of the word.

I Did It: At the highest level, however, the world of leadership comes back to the ‘I,’ but in a completely non-egoistic sense. This is the spiritual I that embodies and identifies with the whole world. There is no need for the presence of a leader. Every single one of these exalted I’s is a member of a team; within an organisation, within a country, within the world.  The I that reaches this state is truly a universal I. In order to reach this level, we need to take charge of ourselves, each one of us individually. And when we do, we will also become exemplary followers, of the kind that all visionary organisations and societies need. There is a ‘circle of life’ philosophy at work here, a spiritual component, to this level of leadership. This is a level worth aspiring to, and is the only kind of leadership that can change the course of the world.

International Relations Based on Fear

Whatever happened to Domino Theory? Way back in the 1950s, the world was recovering from World War II. News coverage was not as intensely 24/7 as it is today. Nevertheless, the world was still a nervous place less than a decade after the great war, with its aftermath still evident in many parts of the world. In 1954, when General Giap decisively defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu, US President Eisenhower brought forth the “falling domino” principle that had been accepted wisdom in foreign policy circles for several years. According to this theory, once Vietnam fell to the Communists, then the neighbouring countries of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand would fall like dominoes and also become communist.

Once Vietnam became Communist, other nations in Indo-China would fall like dominoes....

Once Vietnam became Communist, other nations in Indo-China would fall like dominoes….

The wisdom of hindsight shows that this did not happen. The North Vietnamese were merely fighting for their independence. They had no desire to become satellites of either Russia or China. The US wasted thousands of lives of its own young men (not to mention the terrible toll of Vietnamese lives) in a vain effort to stop dominoes falling. In the process, the US dropped over 2.7 millions tons of ordnance on neighbouring Cambodia, more bombs than the Allies used in all of World War II. This bombing gives Cambodia the doubtful distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in history. See this Yale University link for more detail. http://www.yale.edu/cgp/Walrus_CambodiaBombing_OCT06.pdf (short excerpt below).

The still-incomplete database (it has several “dark” periods) reveals that from October 4, 1965, to August 15, 1973, the United States dropped far more ordnance on Cambodia than was previously believed: 2,756,941 tons’ worth, dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites. Just over 10 percent of this bombing was indiscriminate, with 3,580 of the sites listed as having “unknown” targets and another 8,238 sites having no target listed at all. The database also shows that the bombing began four years earlier than is widely believed—not under Nixon, but under Lyndon Johnson. The impact of this bombing, the subject of much debate for the past three decades, is now clearer than ever. Civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency that had enjoyed relatively little support until the bombing began, setting in motion the expansion of the Vietnam War deeper into Cambodia, a coup d’état in 1970, the rapid rise of the Khmer Rouge, and ultimately the Cambodian genocide.

Fast forward to 2015. The current fear that ISIS, a cruel and aggressive Islamist group, will take over the region is unfounded. There are too many opposing interests, not least the Kurds, who will fight to ensure that this does not happen. Kudos then to President Obama for admitting that “we don’t yet have a complete strategy” for dealing with ISIS. This is an honest answer, for there is no cogent strategy to deal with this convoluted situation. The world should be thankful there is no new domino theory in place, no covert plan for “carpet bombing” the region based on fear of falling dominoes. Progress of sorts, perhaps.

Small is Beautiful

Ernst F. Schuhmacher made the phrase famous with his book of the same title and its thought-provoking subtitle: economics as if people mattered.

Pawel Wembley’s photographs of the minuscule make us look at everyday things in nature in a completely different light. The underside of a leaf, a close up of a flower in bloom, the down on a caterpillar’s hair. For more stunning images of nature’s miniatures brought to light, see his pages of images at the URL below.


Here are a couple of low-resolution samples of Pawel’s superb photos. Most of them were taken on walks through the woods on an island in the South China Sea.

DSC04641 DSC04715-2