>Who was/is the best leader of all time? Posted on March 19, 2010 by thebigqs 8 comments >i.e. which leader would you must like to be governed by today and why? Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related History Politics & Society
>I'll think more about this, but from a UK perspective I'd go for Herbert Asquith between 1906 and 1911.The conviction, intelligence and sheer gumption to tackle the major crisis issue of the day (poverty and national efficiency) and provide a legislative programme that not only helped address but, more importantly, proved seminal in establishing the precedent that the state can be and ought to be a positive force of social good is impressive, more so when applied to risking party and personal advantage to addressing a festering constitutional abomination in the shape of an unreformed aristocratic House of Lords.After 1911, of course, it was all rather different and, therein, I think, lies the rub…however great the leader, there is never perfection.
>I always find it funny that the Liberal party basically self destructed so soon after those 'great' leaders such as Gladstone, Lloyd-George and Asquith (PM through 1908-1916).Asquith had great vision, and was responsible for pushing forth reforms such as the Old Age Pensions Act, reform of the House of Lords, the People's Budget and the creation of the Coalition government during WW1. I also agree that his greatest achievements were earlier, in the period 1906 to 1911. However I don't think you can limit your analysis to only those few years. His actions after 1911 were committed by him. He was still the same man, and ultimately made many decisions that would appal us today.Asquith opposed women getting the vote, despite many other leading members of government supporting the measure. He also back-tracked on the issue, which provoked an attack on his house. He was widely seen as a 'weak' war leader during WW1 by figures at the top. And his actions, together with those of Llotd George split the Liberal Party when Lloyd George worked with the Conservatives to remove Asquith.I am aware that historians commonly present two sides to Asquith; one the capable administrator and reformer in peace times; the other someone who proved unable to present the necessary image of action and dynamism to the public. But if we are to judge Asquith as a leader then both views must be taken into account. And therefore he cannot be known as the greatest leader. I would also say the same thing of Blair, who enacted some very effective reforms, and proved excellent at crisis management, however was mired by his poor involvement in the Middle East.
>I'm going to be a little unpatriotic here and say that I think the best leader ever is Barrack Obama.. He is in touch with the people via weekly broadcasts (as FDR did). . He is an excellent orator. . He has vision for change, which he has expressed meticulously well in those books he has written (so well in fact that I think he would have made an excellent full time author). . His vision for change is to help not himself, not just his 'clients' i.e. those who voted for him or gave him money, nor even just the poor. His actions are taken to help everyone. . He is the first African-American President of the US, which in itself is a worthy achievement in furthering equal rights around the world. . He is succesfully fighting the view of American imperialism that was so widely spread just a month before he came into office (of course it is still now, but at least not as much). Achievements:. The Coburn-Obama Transparency Act allowed the public to see where Federal funds were going. . He has been active in helping people in very real ways in such countries as Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Congo. . He has commited the US to closing Guantanamo asap. . He has re-commited America to fighting for moral values. . He has promoted transparency even with regard to the Presidential records. . He has promoted fair pay through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. . He signed the State Children's Health Insurance Program to give health insurance to 4 million children who were previosuly without insurance. . He has increased funding to stem cell research that could help fight AIDs. . He appointed the first Hispanic to Supreme Court Justice.. He imposed regulations on factories, refineries and power plants to limit pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases.. He signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding upon 1969 hate crime law.. He has enacted a huge stimulus to at least partially plug the gap between demand and potential output.. Along with Bernanke, and the government as a whole he has guided the economy from when it was still worsening, to today when the economy is widely believed to be in recovery.. He eased pressure on those worse hit by the recession by enacting tax cuts.. And I could go on (I should really do some actual work, lol)Where he falls down is a) in his failure to have gotten all his health reform arguments out there early enough b) in his failure to ensure that people in the poorest areas of America know about why he is closing down mines and such forth to help the environment, and also re-assure them that help will comec) perhaps most importantly Obama has failed to be tough enough and persistent enough (mainly with the Israelis) in pursuing peace talks in the ME. d) He may debatedly have been able to do more to curb the increase in unemployment.e) Under his watch relations with China have worsened e.g. he enacted a tariff on Chinese tyres imports, in direct contradiction to earlier commitments to openess.f) He could have been quicker off the mark with a detailed plan to reduce the deficit once recovery is secure, and that way avoid negative private speculation that could yet cause a 'double-dip' recession.However I think you'll agree that each of these weaknesses is quite understandable given his circumstances i.e economic weakness, and the fact that his party is failing to rally round him with regard to the health reform.In some Obama has huge potential, already enacted huge change, been very beneficial to the way people around the world percieve the West in general, done no big things of which I dissaprove (opponents of healthcare reform have very weak arguments) and looks to continue in this manner. I fully expect for example, that when the issue of healthcare reform is over and the economy looks firm once more, Obama will throw his weight behind one of the world's most pressing concerns: peace in the ME.
>I'll go with Ghandi on the basis that I find the normal definition of leadership to be a tad distasteful. To be a leader in the accepted sense is to be a powerful, influential. Why should I admire skill in oratory, skill in acquiring legions of followers etc? Well, that's just me!Ghandi? Well, he didn't do those things, yet he still had enormous influence, as my quote from "Kamat's Potpourri" site (http://www.kamat.com/mmgandhi/gandhi.htm) details, thus:"Gandhi became a leader in a complex struggle, the Indian campaign for home rule. Following World War I, in which he played an active part in recruiting campaigns, Gandhi, again advocating Satyagraha, launched his movement of non-violent resistance to Great Britain. When, in 1919, Parliament passed the Rowlatt Acts, giving the Indian colonial authorities emergency powers to deal with so-called revolutionary activities, Satyagraha spread throughout India, gaining millions of followers. A demonstration against the Rowlatt Acts resulted in a massacre of Indians at Amritsar by British soldiers; in 1920, when the British government failed to make amends, Gandhi proclaimed an organized campaign of non-cooperation. Indians in public office resigned, government agencies such as courts of law were boycotted, and Indian children were withdrawn from government schools. Throughout India, streets were blocked by squatting Indians who refused to rise even when beaten by police. Gandhi was arrested, but the British were soon forced to release him.Economic independence for India, involving the complete boycott of British goods, was made a corollary of Gandhi's Swaraj (from Sanskrit, "self-governing") movement. The economic aspects of the movement were significant, for the exploitation of Indian villagers by British industrialists had resulted in extreme poverty in the country and the virtual destruction of Indian home industries. As a remedy for such poverty, Gandhi advocated revival of cottage industries; he began to use a spinning wheel as a token of the return to the simple village life he preached, and of the renewal of native Indian industries.Gandhi became the international symbol of a free India. He lived a spiritual and ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and meditation. His union with his wife became, as he himself stated, that of a brother and sister. Refusing earthly possessions, he wore the loincloth and shawl of the lowliest Indian and subsisted on vegetables, fruit juices, and goat's milk. Indians revered him as a saint and began to call him Mahatma (great-souled), a title reserved for the greatest sages. Gandhi's advocacy of nonviolence, known as ahimsa (non-violence), was the expression of a way of life implicit in the Hindu religion.".
>Gandhi's certainly hard to argue against. By deeds done so far I admitt Gandhi has provided stronger leadership than Obama in that he has achieved more, and was able to do all that he did largely through word of mouth. In fact what Gandhi achieved was not only great, but also long-lasting. He still inspires people all the way around the world. And he led in revolutionary ways. He did still use oratory skills, and personable skills in gaining followers. But he didn't manipulate the raw, negative emotions of the mob, which is the easiest way to lead, and I think what you were trying to get at?Though I don't know as much as I really should about Gandhi. I'm aware of some of his personal faults but can't think of any relating to his role as a leader. I'm basing this on the belief that you can criticise every leader for something. And I can't accept Gandhi without thinking about the counter-argument. So could you help me out? What's the counter-argument and why is it not a strong enough argument to knock him down from the position of greatest leader of all time?
>Thanks for replying, Rob.You ask me what are the reasons for NOT accepting Gandhi as the 'greatest leader of all time'.If we are serious about finding the 'greatest leader' then I am not sure that this is the best line of approach. I think it might be better to create a list of leaders and to then compare them, one with another.It also makes me wonder if you are more interested in the characteristics of leadership than actually finding a real-life example of someone who perhaps exhibits more of these characteristics than anyone else.Whichever option we choose, we would need to agree on what these characteristics are – clearly something of a tall order. For me, it was Ghandi's qualities of selflessness which won the day – far more than any skill he had in motivating others etc. Like everyone else, I want a leader I can believe in, identify with. The problem is … this is exactly how people like Sadaam Hussein gain power.The whole thing is problematical and … well, it's a political question, isn't it? What about someone like Gordon Brown – let me give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he always tries to take what he sincerely believes to be the right thing for the country. Yet he has many problems with the electors – who feel he lacks charisma and so on. Surely, if he does indeed seek the correct path he is a great leader? But most people would say he lacks leadership, he doesn't "carry people with him".Which brings me to Chairman Mao Tse-tung. To quote from Jerald R Lovell in a review (on the Amazon site) of Mao's 'Little Red Book':"Mao's utterances must be read two ways. The first is as exhortations of the ideal. The second is as justification for what was actually done. Mao seems to encourage dissent and analysis as the basis for revolutionary improvement on the one hand, but the record reveals that his rule was as an iron dictator. Equally, he exhorts the faithful to achieve stability, but history shows his ill-fated Red Guard movement nearly tore China apart. ".My reason for quoting the above is that, when we consider the question of 'greatest leader' – are we making any distinction between on the one hand) the ideals that the leader stood for – and (on the other) the actual effects that they had in practice? Again, I feel that Ghandi manages to score well on both counts.In conclusion, I suppose I have successfully managed to skirt around the question and completely avoid answering it – in the best academic tradition :)But then it's been a long while since I read the literature about Ghandi, I've honestly forgotten the relevant details (please forgive). So I'll finish with a quote (which alludes to 'president' rather than 'leader' – but no matter). You may feel it has at least some bearing on the matter in hand?Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so. ~Gore Vidal
>Firstly, I disagree that it is all about characteristics. If that were so then a man/woman would not have to have led to be a great leader. Secondly, selflessness is not really a characteristic. This, together with your points about Gordon Brown, implies the real counter-argument against Gandhi. Gandhi was relaxed, and although he gathered huge crowds he was not a passionate speaker. Hence it seems that he did not have that raw sense of charismatic power/presence that is so attractive to followers. At the end of the day it was easier for most people to agree with Gandhi's message than for people to agree with Obama's. Hence you could say that Gandhi didn't have to exercise as much skill in the way of persuasion. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong there.It's interesting that you talk about what we should measure leaders against. For if I am judging Gandhi based on my personal idea of a leader then it is exactly his unconventional style of leadership (which was what made him great), that would make him less appealing to today's followers. Much of Gandhi's leadership style was follower-centric i.e. he adapted his leadership deliberately for each situation (e.g. wearing suits in South Africa but not in India). It is perhaps for this exact reason why I would now more likely follow Obama, because his style of leadership more appropriately addresses me in modern society.Yet measuring a leader against the characteristics that the analyst believes is not really appropriate. You asked whether we are making a distinction between a leader's ideals and his/her actions. Yes and no. The best way to measure a leader is usually against their own aims, which of course stem directly from their ideals. Hence we distinguish between aims and actions when they differ. But for the great leader they should be one and the same. As you say Gandhi does score fairly well on this. Yet so do many other leaders.Remember that a leader is different to a manager. The characteristics you seek are more akin to management. For example Gordon Brown does lead on some issues. But he is not a great leader because his style of leadership is managerial i.e. he lacks vision, force of character, and the ability to carry people along with him on any issue. This is also Cameron's biggest fall-down. He too is not a great natural leader. He gets very nervous and loses sleep before big events. He delivers rehearsed speeches because he fears not being prepared enough, and consequently fails to adopt a follower-centric approach. He basically doesn’t respond to the crowd like Clegg did in the first leader’s debate. And at the end of the day he lacks that ability to persuade people. They used to say about Lyndon Johnson that you would enter the Oval Office adamant about your position, only to find yourself smiling and shaking Johnson's hand five minutes later, with your position completely reversed.The last quote is indeed very topical, especially as you refer to Brown. It implicitly hints at the rejection of a certain psychology of leadership, namely the 'active-negative' type. This type of leader pursues power for four reasons: to get power, to get control, because he/she is driven to achieve in general, and of course to realise self made ambitions. Cameron has accused Brown of being one of these leaders because Brown aimed to be leader for such a long time before office.For others reading and wanting more info about Gandhi as a leader see this quick slideshow: http://www.scribd.com/doc/6977301/Leadership-Style-of-Mahatma-Gandhi
>The reason I sought the counter-arguments is because I know they always exist. I should still learn more before I make a final judgement. But we at least have the benefit of hindsight. We still need to know more about what Obama will do in the future to really compare him properly. If he can pull the world out of recession and get the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a two-state solution then I think his name may bump Gandhi down a notch.