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Long Reads

English

Democratic Leadership in a Populist Age

With populism and nationalism currently in the ascendancy in much of the world, where should we look for inspiring democratic leadership? It will not come from Trump, of course, but the US has shown enlightened and visionary global leadership before, and it can do so again.

MELBOURNE – In most airport bookshops, you will see rows of titles offering business travelers advice on leadership. I should not disparage them. It is doubtless possible to rise in the marketing department by learning a lesson or two from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

And, to be fair, some airport books on leadership are thoughtful, and draw on a variety of examples. The investor and philanthropist Michael Moritz, for example, has written very well about business leaders like Steve Jobs and Lee Iacocca, and co-authored a highly readable book on leadership with Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary former manager of Manchester United.

You also may be able to draw lessons in leadership from the careers of great military commanders. In The Mask of Command, the military historian John Keegan notes the inevitably different requirements demanded of leaders at different times and in different technological environments. But the two things I took from his essays on Ulysses S. Grant and the Duke of Wellington were the importance of knowing what is happening (easier for Grant because of the telegraph) and the ability to explain clearly what you want to do.

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