Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Better Leadership: the Danger of Arrogance

Good News

America has had a rough decade, but the good news is that we are starting to work on developing the better leadership America needs to turn our country around.

Rethinking Leadership

I started writing about the American Leadership Crisis back in January, 2007. This last year a friend recommended Where Have All the Leaders Gone? by Lee Iacocca, which also came out in 2007. It is an established fact that America is in the midst of a deep and abiding leadership crisis. The Wall Street meltdown is just one manifestation of this crisis.

The TEA Party movement is evidence that Americans are tired of failed leadership. A resurgent conservative movement is more evidence Americans are looking for better leadership.

The Texas Ascendancy Campaign is a plan to fix America's problems by taking action within Texas. You can follow the Texas Ascendant blog, which has a thread called The Texas Leadership Revolution.

This Timeless Way blog will focus now on rethinking leadership. Good leadership is a timeless human need.

The Danger of Arrogance

We inaugurate this new focus by examining the danger arrogance poses to good leadership. Examples of arrogance surround us. I will just pick up yesterday's newspaper and point you to the article U.K. Documents Show Friction With U.S. on Iraq by JOHN F. BURNS, New York Times, November 23, 2009.

Here is a great quote from a British Colonel about American leadership in this article:
They need to reintroduce dialogue as a tool of command because, although it is easy to speak to Americans face to face and understand each other completely, dealing with them corporately is akin to dealing with a group of Martians. If it isn’t on the PowerPoint slide, it doesn’t happen.”

Here's another great quote:
The whole system was appalling,” Colonel Tanner said. “We experienced real difficulty in dealing with the American military and civilian organizations who, partly through arrogance and partly through bureaucracy, dictate that there is only one way: the American way.”

The ancient Greeks were very familiar with the human failings of hubris and arrogance. There is the great example of hubris when Xerxes ordered the sea be whipped for disobedience.

Here is another example. When Alexander the Great first invaded Persia, that was when he was most vulnerable and most likely to be defeated. The Persian Governor had a general who him the surest way to defeat Alexander was to deprive him of foraged food: burn the crops, destroy the food. The Governor refused to listen to his expert and Alexander went on to conquer the Persian Empire.

The scorched earth policy defeated Napoleon in Russia and it would have defeated Alexander.

Arrogance shuts off good advice. Good leadership requires expert advice, but arrogance renders good advice worthless.

It is during the formative years of character formation in elementary school that lessons about arrogance and hubris must be taught. An ethics seminar in the Harvard Business school is too late to form good character.

Robert Canright

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