Strategic intuition: Leaders and strange projects

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Pablo Edronkin

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From time to time someone pops out in front of TV cameras and says that he - or she - has a magnificent plan; some of those plans, allegedly generated spontaneously, are pure chimeras, but there are also leaders that promise to reach the Moon, and they finally do that. The quality of leadership has a lot to do with that. What is needed in order to get such quality?

There are two reasons behind really big promises made by leaders: One is that the leader that makes a remarkable statement such as the promise to rival Khufu and his great pyramid of Giza, send explorers into outer space or to develop a new and ostensibly unfeasible technology is a plain, superficial, all-round brute that says things because he or she is too ignorant to see the difference between what is feasible and what is not due to the difficulties existing in the path of development. The other reason is because the leader that says something like that believes that nothing is impossible and is better instructed than the average person of his country or corporation and enjoys deeper, far-reaching vision than most people, and in this way, is able to see further in the future and enjoys the capability of determining if something is attainable or not. This is not just magic or a tendency to predict the future in esoteric ways, but the strategic intuition that only comes with great experience and wisdom.

The difference between a simple Hotepsekhemwy and someone as the late President Kennedy lies precisely in this difference. Of course, this doesn't mean that such leaders are perfect individuals. We know very little about Pharao Hotepsekhemwy because there are very scarce historic records about his period in Egypt, and indeed, the man is not very transcendental in any way, but we can't say for sure that he was a person without qualities. On the other hand, John F. Kennedy made many mistakes during his life and historic research has pointed those errors in different ways. But what was the final result of the lives of both these men? The Pharao remains seemingly forever as an obscure anecdote, while Mr. Kennedy put his country in a successful path to reach the Moon, in 1969.

People's gullibility of course, helps a lot when some one tries to sell strange ideas because the more ignorant on average people is, the easier will be to sell them incredible things. However, since blindness in front of facts is variable according to the will to see that individuals have, even if a society is relatively mature it might be easy to take them for fools. It is in this way how leaders like Idi Amin could convince their constituency that with the military might of Uganda they could invade South Africa or Israel, but at the same time, how President Bush convinced the people of the most powerful country on Earth to go to a war in Iraq in order to secure weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. In fact, while Ugandans simply were poor and ignorant and had scant contact with the world, so it is understandable that they were coerced and persuaded by their almighty president about their own magnificence, U.S. citizens at the dawn of the second Iraqi war could listen to the whole world telling them that they were making a mistake. Of course, both things ended badly: Mr. Amin's air forces were wiped out in half an hour by an expedition of Israeli reservists who seized the Entebbe airport and rescued scores of hostages there in the seventies, and the whole business sin Iraq smells like a defeat of the U.S. armed forces. The sad thing is that people were manipulated alike in both cases, and the result was also the same.

So strategic intuition doesn't take a well-cultivated popular constituency as an indispensable ingredient. What is necessary is that the leaders must be superior to the average, but also, that they are honourable: Doubtlessly, the people that belonged to the European leadership exactly a century ago were in a far better social end economic position than the average citizen in the continent. They enjoyed far better opportunities and education, yet, they caused the first world war by the use of intrigues and a totally inept diplomacy. For many among aristocrats, war was until them, more or less, a sport of sorts, a social activity to celebrate instead of a destructive event that destroyed lives, culture and the environment. Moreover: The danger of bright leaders with no moral or ethical stature is that being faster to think than common people, it is easy for them to take advantage of the situation.

Thus, any sort of paradigm shift as those that strategic intuition could provoke requires two indispensable ingredients: cultivated leaders and a strong system of values. No more, no less.

Simply nature; dawn in early fall, Patagonia.

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