Embracing leadership on the global stage

Kenichi Ohmae provides some markers for today’s global leaders.


The global economy is a new phenomenon. It does not have the certainties of the past, the mental and psychological crutches upon which leaders in the old economy supported themselves.

Among many other things, success in the new global economy will depend on good leadership. This is true whether we are talking about a region state, a micro-state or a company. There are enough examples of bad leaders around – people who are forever looking over their shoulder, who are reacting, usually belatedly, to events and then trying to pin the blame for their own cognitive weaknesses on others. A good leader needs courage. This shouldn’t be confused with gung-ho recklessness, but courage usually signifies the opposite of timidity. A bad leader can usually be defined as fearful of something or other – or maybe everything. They may be afraid of a disappointing set of sales figures at the end of the next quarter. They may be afraid of losing the next election.

Rather than dwelling on bad leadership let us try to isolate those qualities which the global economy will constrain leaders to adopt if they want to win. Effective leaders, both from the public and the private sectors, have some things in common. One is an unwillingness to be imprisoned by ideology and to seek practical results. Bo Xilai, former mayor of the Chinese city of Dalian and now a senior government minister, came from a “good” Communist family. His father could not be decried as a comfort comrade. He had undergone harassment at the hands of the nationalist government in the early 1930s, followed by the unbelievable horror of the Long March, when Mao Zedong led his followers on a forced migration from southern to northern China, across hostile terrain and under constant governmental attack. Privation was commonplace; shoes and dead animals were eaten. Bo senior’s faith in his principles could hardly be questioned. One of these principles was communal ownership of the forces of production. In its Maoist form it was also tinged with a certain xenophobia: Maoism might differ from “orthodox” communism because it was inherently Chinese. Yet, Bo Xilai not only openly embraced the opening up of the People’s Republic to western-style private enterprise, but eagerly sought outside investment in Dalian and now, throughout the country as the Minister of Commerce.

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