Strong leadership is seductive. The idea that someone can take charge and be decisive, especially in a crisis are the qualities that shine in what we see as strong leaders. Ruthlessness is a quality that gets people to the top. We see example of this at the moment in the superpowers that dominate the news.
Yet there is a paradox here. If history tells us anything it is that ruthless ambition coupled with an absolute belief in their decision making capabilities leads individuals away from leadership to megalomania. However good their intentions, people in leadership positions who are ruthless and decisive, ultimately are lead astray,. They believe their own hype. They surround themselves with people who pander to them and bask in their reflected glory. They end up making decisions that are, in the long run, bad for the people that they are supposed to serve.
This is not what we need in leadership.
I am told that in times of war, or crisis it is these qualities in a leader that are needed. Someone who can make quick decisions and hang the consequences will get the job done. My argument however is that it is these characteristics that get us into war situations and crises in the first place. Without ruthless determination and a god given belief there would be fewer wars, less suffering, fewer deaths and an increase in fairness within the world.
What is worse is that history remembers these people as great.
The kind of leadership we need is more conciliatory, more inclusive, more ponderous and less decisive, one that draws back from commiting its people to war and all that that entails. We need leaders who listen to their advisors as well as their detractors. We need leaders that consider the middle ground and do not see national or global politics in terms of win or lose but rather in the furtherance of all mankind. Politics should be about win win.
The problem is it is very difficult to get such people elected.