Power or Leadership?

Susan Ward defines leadership as: ” the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal”.  This is certainly a concise, precise and to the point approach of a concept which has been debated throughout our recorded human history.  Our aim here is neither to redefine nor discuss the meaning of Leadership rather than it is to underline the differences that exist between that concept and the one of Power and how confusing both has hurt Haiti tremendously.

If we go back for a minute to Susan Ward’s definition, the responsibility of the individual who aspires to lead rests in his/her ability to direct others.  Therefore it would be fair to add that those who are meant to be led determine whether or not the leader is successful.  If the common goal isn’t reached and if people are not motivated to work toward that said objective, then the leader has failed.  On the other hand, those who have power don’t depend on those they rule or direct to succeed.  They depend on the tools available (legal system, army, money) and on their ability to use those tools effectively to get what they want.

What is Power? The dictionary offers an array of definitions depending on the context.  We’ve retained three:

1. The ability or capacity to perform or act effectively.

2The ability or official capacity to exercise control; authority.

3A person, group, or nation having great influence or control over others.

Power! When limited to the political realm, it simply means having within the hands of the individual, social class or political party the legal means to exert authority over the rest of society.  Those who run for office usually do so in order to gain power but, in order to succeed, they must possess those qualities needed to become a good leader.  One who has leadership qualities will sooner or later gain power; however, most who have power don’t necessarily lead because they are too concerned with controlling.  Throughout human history, the less fortunate, who happen to be in greater numbers, have been kept in line because of power and because of a realistic fear of what it can do.  There have been times when leadership was born out of grave injustices to right the wrongs of our world.

Having just spent 16 days in Haiti, one cannot help but ponder those two concepts.  Before the magnitude of the work to be done, one has to ask whether or not our collective illness isn’t simply due to a terrible deficiency in quality leadership.  Oh, there is plenty amount of power in Haiti and countless numbers of Haitians who vie to hold it for as long as they can and by all means necessary.  Since 1804, and because of national and international conspiracies, the Haitian people has not been properly led.  We’ve had our fair share of powerful and authoritarian heads of state.  A small group of families, whose interests do not align with those of the rest of society, has been very successful at holding and keeping power and all means of production; they have yet to lead a society desperate to find itself.

There is an infrastructure that needs rebuilding and modernizing, construction codes to be updated, an educational system in desperate need of restructuring, jobs to be created, a legal system that needs a facelift and our collective dignity to be regained.  Power only begets more power and it has the uncanny ability to quickly corrupt the foolish.  But honest and effective leadership begets true vision and wisdom to lead a people onto the path of human progress.  Haiti today needs builders of nation and makers of dreams to rise once more out of the ashes of destruction.  Two fundamental questions remain:  Can a society that is deep in crisis recognize those qualities that make a good leader?  Is Haiti forever condemned to having as heads of state those power seeking individuals who never concern themselves with leading?  The answers, I leave to you.

Cassandra Honorat

February 2, 2012

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One thought on “Power or Leadership?

  1. Pingback: Power and Leadership! « Rooseveltjf's Blog

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