Western societies have become obsessed with rule making. Instead of cultivating authoritative leadership, we rely one-sidedly on rules explicitly designed to penalise the taking of initiative.
The plethora of seminars, training courses, and self-help texts promising to turn uninspiring executives into dynamic leaders miss the point that leadership is not a skill that can be learned from clever teachers.
In the 27th John Bonython Lecture, Frank Furedi discussed the distinct lack of leadership needed to deal with the many crises facing the world in the 21st century and replace the society’s addiction to regulating economic and public affairs with a culture of encouraging people to take up the responsibilities associated with leadership.
Authoritative leadership is more about establishing a real presence by giving meaning to society’s aspirations than just charismatic communication. One of the paradoxes of our times is that although we continually demand effective leadership, we have also created powerful institutional barriers to the exercise of discretion and judgment.
To confront the current crisis of leadership and process-driven culture, we need to foster an environment that is hospitable to risk-taking and the freedom to experiment and explore.