Maradona: Leadership when leadership is no more

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Pablo Edronkin

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Astronauts and Cosmonauts of the first years in space of humankind have retired long ago, but they still have to live publicly according to the ideals they represented back then, and that is not always easy; other people, like athletes and sport stars also have to live with their past glories, but they showed ineptitude for that. Why?

Neil Armstrong will remain forever as the first human that set foot on the Moon; this is something that will be associated to his name no matter what happens in the world. Undoubtedly, achieving something like that is something exceedingly uncommon but the higher the achievement, the higher is the demand for staying at its level. Astronauts and cosmonauts must remain being spacemen despite the fact that the no longer are. And it seems that they have managed to succeed in that for the most part.

Different is what happens in other realms of life and society: Diego Maradona, for many the best football player ever - it is football, not soccer, let's not be brutes - has endured a very difficult time since he became successful. Moreover: His sports career seems to be ending rather bitterly with his very bad performance as the manager for the Argentine national football team. Argentina collected several world championships, Olympic gold medals and according to historical data, more prizes and goals than Brazil, but now is being defeated by otherwise lesser rivals like Bolivia and Ecuador that normally should not poise any serious threat for the Argentines. Mike Tyson is another example of a leader in his trade and a popular icon - hence, a popular leader or emulation archetype too - that failed severely in there aspects of his life, particularly financial. And then there is Pele, the other great football player that now that Maradona is falling yet again in disgrace, spares no expense to attack him. Pele did not fall from public grace in the same way as Maradona or Tyson, but his attitude towards his rival in fame and applause seems so degrading to his own person as the insults with which he wants to attack. In other words, he fell very low in conduct.

Albert Einstein is another example of a person that attained glory relatively early in his life with the publication of his two variants of relativity (the so-called special and general theories) but managed to keep his fame and reputation intact or even increased it. Einstein became a true cultural icon, a leading image that inspired thousands to pursue scientific careers. It was, indeed, a leader. Christopher Columbus, on the contrary, did not enjoy a good life after he arrived in the New World: Today he is remembered as a great navigator an doubtlessly, an entrepreneur of magnitude, but due to his lack of management skills and empathy with his subordinated, he became a loathed man (Ver Ships of Adventure, Exploration and Survival).

Now, let's do a little mental exercise: We will divide all these leaders into two groups. In one we will put those that have been successful in this department - astronauts, cosmonauts and Einstein - and those that have not - Maradona, Tyson, Pele and Columbus. What could we say about them? To start with, there is a difference in educational levels between both groups; however, it would be methodologically wrong to make an inference and generalise it just based on these few cases. It would be necessary to study the matter further but it seems, or this suggests that there might be a relationship between the degree of formal education that a leader has and his capability to maintain that leadership under the circumstances. So, the question is valid:

Does formal education help to conserve leadership? This is something that falls within the category of those things that are frequently argued about because it is relatively simple to come up with examples of people that managed to succeed and were characterised by a fine education as well as those who weren't. However, if formal education served no purpose in life, then we wouldn't need it at all and hence, there would be no forma education systems. So, formal education actually does give anyone an edge in life, in broad terms. Thus, a leader would benefit from a formal education too, in the realm of the things that we are now dealing with. It is yet to be seen if there are no exceptions. Undoubtedly, there are cases of people that fail despite a fine formal education; having a degree in your hands is in no way a guarantee of success by itself, but what that piece of paper implies - the fact that you have received and assimilated information and knowledge - makes it more likely that you will be able to understand the situations that you confront and hence, that you will be able to find viable solutions for them.

Expertise is often guaranteed by a title or diploma - except in cases of "titulitis" or title inflation - under the paradigm of a formal control system that oversees the educational process, but does not constitute a foolproof guarantee, neither it marks the only path to knowledge and even wisdom. Quite on the contrary, many great talents were developed despite established systems instead of thanks to them.The problem with this argument lies in the fact that while there are indeed geniuses, this concept can be easily and falsely generalised in order to justify cases in which it cannot be really applied either because the person in question is not a genius or it is, but in a different walk of life with no reason to believe that his or her geniality will extend to the activity for which he or she is being appointed. Therefore, the exception of geniality is an argument that more often than not is used just to break the rules of appointment quality in order to put in place a fool that is allegedly a "genius" or to do so with someone able in some aspects, but not necessarily in those that are required.

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