Saturday, September 13, 2008

Qualities Of Leadership

Leadership is easy. All it takes is someone to make the decision. And if you are right more than half the time, so much the better. attributed to President Josip Broz Tito
Let us assume for the moment the popular progressive stereotype of Sarah Palin; that John McCain knows twice as much as she does about the topics a president needs to know: foreign affairs, the economy, energy, the military. Assume further that those brilliant Democrats know three times as much as she does, and that other candidates - Hillary or the previous nominees Kerry and Gore - know four times as much. If we looked around further we would uncover others, Condi Rice or somebody, who have five times the information Sarah Palin does about crucial subjects. I don't for a moment think it is true, but let's grant it arguendo.

Under those assumptions, you would think that we would be crazy to vote for the person who knows only one-third or one-fifth as much as someone else. Why not seek those who know more?

Because it's still not enough, that's why. Condi Rice in the assumption above would know 5% of what she needs to be president; Gore, Kerry, and Hillary 4%; Obama and Biden 3%; McCain2%, and Palin trailing the pack at 1%. Any single person knows only a small sampling of the necessary information to manage the world's remaining superpower. Other factors are of enormously, ridiculously greater importance. The ability to choose advisors and managers, the ability to persuade, the ability to intuit a whole from a part, personal balance between determination and flexibility; adaptability, willingness to listen, willingness to stop listening, self-honesty, and a set of general principles that can be fit to many situations.

There are very few professions that actually require a seriously high IQ, and most of those are in the sciences. Churchill was clearly an intellect, but was DeGaulle? Eisenhower or Truman? For that matter, do we think Hitler or Stalin were possessed of an abundance of little gray cells, or that they had some other shrewd, emotional intelligence? Jefferson was brilliant, but Washington and Lincoln were probably not very far above the average. One standard deviation, about 15-16 IQ points, is more than enough.

I am making no claim that Governor Palin has those other impressive and necessary qualities for public office. I am only noting that one supposed qualification is overrated. If you wanted lots of that quality, you should have elected me instead. And believe me, you're glad you didn't.

1 comment:

miriam said...

I believe we can conclude that Eisenhower was intelligent. Likewise Theodore Roosevelt. As for the others....