Providing Sound Leadership in Our Time

Even with sound leadership, the pressing issues of our time will be difficult to resolve. So imagine how much more formidable that task will be without sound leadership.

What are the pressing issues of our time?

They include boosting global economic growth to create jobs for the more than 200 million people now out of work, some 50 million of whom are youths; combating climate change with its threat to the very existence of life on earth; dealing with immigration which impacts hundreds of millions of people worldwide; global water and food shortages; alleviating poverty; lowering the threat of war and terrorism; and educating the world's children.

These are a few of the issues, all of which are interconnected, both in terms of cause and effect and in their resolution.

There is no chance of addressing these challenges successfully without leadership and sound leadership at that. Such leadership must exist at both the global and national levels, as well as at the macro and micro spheres of human enterprise.

The G-8, which met recently in Northern Ireland, is the group often called upon to address global problems. What matters most is not the joint statement that they produced following their meeting but the joint action they take beyond the meeting.

Will their actions result in the millions of jobless poor finding work, the world's environment finding relief from its stressors, war torn and threatened generations in the Middle East and elsewhere in our world finding peace or millions of children starved of learning receiving an education to help them pursue a better life?

Their joint statement will remain a harmless piece of paper unless they themselves, through prudent action, are leading soundly.

But what is sound leadership?

It is not rhetoric, talk, mere words. Sound leadership is rooted in an understanding that the complexity and seriousness of the challenges facing us call for agents willing to influence, inspire and coordinate our collective responses.

Sound leadership is grounded in humility, recognizing that only together will we solve our problems. So it is senseless to allow personal ego to dominate our behavior as leaders.

Sound leadership is disciplined by vision, knowing that what matters most is achieving the results that produce benefits to the communities it serves.

Sound leadership is steeped in thoughtful strategies, planning that is not based upon oversimplification of issues but rather respecting the importance of comprehensive input from a variety of sources as the best means of attempting to solve problems.

Sound leadership is reflective, willing to concede the failure of any effort and recognize the need to adjust to find an effective solution.

We need leadership at all levels to find solutions to our pressing problems.

Parents, teachers, business persons, pastors and politicians must all participate in providing this sound leadership.

However, a greater burden at the national and global level falls on politicians. Here we have a huge dilemma.

Sound leadership on the part of this group means doing something that for them might seem impossible.

To provide sound leadership, they must put more leadership in their politics and less politics in their leadership.

This simply means caring more about meeting the needs of their constituents than they do about weak policies to which they have married themselves. It means being more passionate about relieving the suffering of their people and our world than about winning the next election.

This is a lot to ask of men and women for whom focus on the next election is a part of the political culture, their priority.

But the demands of our time are great and only those willing, not merely to change the way the game is played but to change the game itself, can best meet the people's needs.

This is the gift and burden of sound leadership.