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Responsible Leadership

June 26, 2009

I recently gave a speech on the topic of leadership. I explored the aspect of authentic leadership and took the audience through examples of prominent world leaders, the debate over whether leaders are born and not made, and the importance of engaging in personal reflection to better understand how one lives their personal leadership. One quotation I shared came from the late Peter Drucker, undeniably the leading management thinker of the 20th Century. In sharing this quotation (which was part of my speech that was written before the turmoil in Iran started) it drove home a critical point made by Drucker some years ago: that leadership must be founded upon a constitution – otherwise, irresponsibility will result.

The following quotation from Drucker articulates beautifully what leadership should and should not encompass.

“I am amazed that today’s prominent writers on leadership do not seem to realize that the three most charismatic leaders in all recorded history were named Hitler, Stalin and Mao. I do not believe that there are three men who did more evil and more harm. Leadership has to be grounded in responsibility. It has to be grounded in a constitution. It has to be grounded in accountability. Otherwise, it will lead to tyranny.”

Unfortunately, we have seen too often in the past – and continuing today – the abuses of power and authority by those who are ‘elected’ or who seize control of governments. Leadership requires a followership; we should all exercise care when we refer to who are leaders, whether as heads of state or heads of corporations. Drucker’s words will help serve as a guidepost into the future.

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