So Russia just conducted a nuclear test, how could that be interpreted other than a warlike act?
If you are into leadership one good distinction to make is between the leaders you need for war and those you need for peace. The Mafia knew (knows?) all about it and I get my information on impeccable authority from the epic novel “The Godfather”. That’s how Michael Corleone got to get his first gig as Godfather and then kept it via a killing spree worthy of ISIS. So there’s a role model to start with.
You need one kind of leaders leaders for war and different leaders for peace. Putin is clearly in the former category and I guess that’s going to have an impact on the leaders Western countires choose in forthcoming years, since it looks like Putin has no plans to retire soon.
All the leadership assessments and approaches currentlky in use are designed for peacetime leaders. That’s because they were generally designed in peacetime by academics or peaceful business people. So generally they throw up leaders who have the personalities and characteristics you need for a good peacetime leader.
Of course you get leaders who did both, splendidly too such as FD Roosevelt. They were agile people who were able to do both. But more commonly it’s one or the other such as Chamberlain and Churchill.
For the sake of convenience let’s call the personality characteristics and competencies of these two types of leaders’ psychomarkers, the psychological equivalent of biomarkers.
So what are the psychomarkers of leaders for peace versus leaders for war? For peace, here’s a few:
- Business acumen
And for the war leaders
- Often irrational
- Ruthless, when necessary
Of course there's some overlap. And my list is a little bit self-referential. But let’s go with it for the moment. How would we rate some of Putin’s psychomarkers?
There’s his frequent reference to his love for the martial arts, which he practices. He likes to show his muscles a lot. He’s macho, has no compunction to hurt his own people and others who might be totally innocent of any ill-will to him, e.g. the passengers of MH17. In other words he is happy to involve and hurt others if it meets his greater aims. Definitely ruthless
With Georgia and Ukraine his record needs no further explanation. There are close parallels with the 1930s and Hitler.
I guess intelligence and political analysts the world over would have to be seeing these parallels and drawing their own conclusions. I think the obvious conclusion is that he won’t stop unless some others stop him.
So the global future is looking a little bleak. Maybe he doesn’t want to conquer the whole world but Novorossiya is still a pretty big place if you check out the historical background. Probably covers a lot of Europe including many nations that have functioning free democracies now. How about Poland and the Baltics for starters (after Ukraine of course)?
If you are into leadership assessment, one thing you learn is that leaders" behaviors don’t change much, if at all. That’s not to say that peacetime leaders can’t make changes; they absolutely can.
But leaders of nations once they get into the saddle will usually not change their basic behavior and usually will continue to get worse. Putin was selected to be a KGB officer so we already know what that means about his leadership qualities. Their expression has only deteriorated over the years of his leadership.
There is some possibility that Putin isn’t really a true war leader. He might just be a weak wannabee who lucked into the position through his mate Yeltsin. In that case he will stop if he’s confronted. But we don’t know that. We have to be prepared for the likelihood that he’s the real thing.
Unfortunately this means that for the next few years we are going into what hopefully will just be another Cold War but could turn into another hot war at any time. Freedom-loving democratic nations are going to have to take a step back from some of the more ambitious social initiatives they would like to take to focus on the larger existential challenges of which Putin is one, but of which there are many others, as witness ISIS. There’s an awful lot of them coming out of the woodwork lately.
That means we are going to have to turn our attention to getting war leaders, like it or not. And that doesn’t mean just in the political realm.
These mega-trends will also impact the leaders of business and nonprofits just as they affect political leaders. Exxon thought it could ignore the issue; now see what happened. Nonprofits now have to register in Russia and worse things are probably on the way.
You can’t ignore the war versus peace leaders issue even if you want to. It’s going to happen even if you don’t want it too. The leaders of the mid-thirties thought it would all go away. Then look what happened.