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COLUMN: Strong, wise, benevolent leadership a necessity in times like these

'We can hope that the best among us rise up to positions of leadership in government, and in business and community.'
Jackson Roger
Columnist Roger Jackson

Excuse me for a recurring rant. World peace, security, and governance are again threatened. War in eastern Europe, rumbles of war over Taiwan, a pandemic too slow in dissipating, and the threat of famine in Africa are challenges facing populations and governments worldwide.

If we want to diminish our surplus global population, these seismic events will do it.

History is replete with examples of devastation from war, pestilence, and famine, but because of modern global inter-connectivity and communication, such events now have faster, greater global impact.

We are at an interesting crossroad of effectively diminishing the threats or being overcome by them. Times like this cry out for pervasively strong, wise, benevolent leadership. However, our three strongest nations, the United States, China, and Russia, are led by heads of state who are either democratically elected but politically weak, or powerful dictators overextending their geo-political clout.

International alliances such as the United Nations and the European Union are being challenged by their membership and their effectiveness threatened. Populist movements in Canada, the U.S., and other democratic countries, seeking re-affirmation of individual rights and freedoms, are challenging the governments that ensure those rights. And according to U.S.-based Freedom House, democracies have declined significantly.

We all rail at government now and again. In a democracy we have that right and obligation. However, the discontent of the rebels among us and the divisions they create, enabled by weak, misguided leadership, weakens our ability to address severe risks like we’re facing now.

It doesn’t help that we’re greatly impacted by unfettered social media as a primary news source. Knowing who to listen to is harder than ever. Governing is never easy; governing in a democracy the hardest (“democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others,” said Winston Churchill).

Always needed are good, stalwart men and women of vision who can lead us by expertise and example, who, once elected, know and do what’s right for us long term, not what’s politically correct short term. What is not needed are leaders who vacillate, manipulate, and deceive; focused on what’s good for them, not us.

Good leaders in all humility know they are merely the first, for a while, among equals, earning their right to first place and leadership by their wisdom and beneficent achievements. There are examples of good people, good leaders in the world but we may have lost our best for now, Angela Merkel of Germany, when she retired last year after 16 years in office. She wielded quiet, responsible power unlike so many others who prove Lord Acton’s dictum that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Her leadership is a model for all who aspire to lead. We can hope that the best among us rise up to positions of leadership in government, and in business and community. Although we may influence such a rise, we cannot control it. What we can control is our ability to be well-informed about people and their organizations. It means sorting through the extensive data debris to find nuggets of golden information. It will help us discern who and what’s best, and support the rise and work of genuine leaders and their colleagues.

Roger Jackson is a former deputy minister and a St. Albert resident.

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