Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Leaders and Threat

So Tony Blair's memoirs are out. I haven't yet read them but apparently he partly justifies the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by claiming that it was necessary to send the message that attacking the USA would not be tolerated. On the radio yesterday I heard an interview in which Blair went on to say that the greatest threat to world peace was Islamic fundamentalism.

Sounds pretty screwed up to me. Sure as sure can be, it doesn't look or sound like leadership. It sounds far more like the actions of the schoolyard bully and his/her mates who have the attitude we can do what we like and don't you dare touch us.

But Blair is right on one thing. The greatest threat to world peace is fundamentalism - but it doesn't matter whether the label is Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or anything else. Immediately any person or group claims to be the only purveyor of truth - to be the only way to righteousness and God (no matter how 'God' may be defined) - and makes it clear that they are prepared to use violence (physical, emotional, or mental) in order to achieve their goals we have a problem.

This is the realisation stated by General Petraeus in his condemnation of the plan by the Dove Outreach Centre in Florida to burn copies of the Koran. I suspect that members of the Dove Outreach Centre would see the burning of the Bible as an act of violence and I suspect they would argue for retaliation against anyone who committed what they would see as an act of sacrilege. They have a total right to have such feelings. But equally the Muslim community have the same right to feel affronted and attacked by the burning of the Koran.

Unfortunately the statement by Blair that identifies only Muslim fundamentalism and his comments justifying the invasion of Iraq give the totally wrong message. It is a toxic message - one that gives succour to extremists of other faiths - and by such action exacerbates both the possibility and the probability of violence.

True leadership recognises that the issue is far more complex than the simplistic idea of sending "a message of total clarity to the world" after September 11. True leadership is far more complex than attacking the activities of one extremist group while ignoring or tacitly condoning the activities of other extremist groups. True leadership seeks to deal with the root causes - what Deming (the father of the Quality movement) called the systems causes as opposed to the special causes. And this is something that the past and current activities in Iraq and Afghanistan fail to do.

We need leadership that can deal with the increasing amounts of ambiguity and uncertainty that exist in every arena of life. First and Second Generation Leadership have got us into this mess. We need Third Generation Leadership to get us out of it. A clue to what this might be like can be found at http://www.blog.ottoscharmer.com/?=attentional+violence&submit=GO

Please let me know what you think about this. You can make comments below.

Further information about Doug Long at http://www.dglong.com