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“The most strategic leader today is…

Fall 2009 The Definition

“The most strategic leader today is…

Hamid Dabashi

…neither any political leader of any particular nation-state, nor any presumed leader of any superpower, nor indeed any chief executive officer of any transnational corporation. The 21st century is the age of the revolt of civil society and community activism against the increasingly discredited state apparatus and ineffective global entities, ranging from the UN to the World Bank. The president of the most powerful country on Earth is a former community activist, who still looks and acts as a community activist! Ours is the age of the creative fiction of the Internet exacerbating the critical condition of our globalized public spaces. In these circumstances, the accumulated synergy of cyberspace and the polyvocal views that it has enabled disallow any single leader the vacuous aura or the charismatic ambiguity that have historically conditioned great political and moral leaders. Neither a Gandhi will emerge in this world, nor a Churchill, neither a Malcolm X nor a Martin Luther King – and the world is neither any richer nor any poorer for this fact. Rather, it is at the threshold of a whole new shade of moral imagination.”

» Hamid Dabashi teaches social and intellectual history of Iran and the Muslim world, literary and cultural theory, as well as world cinema at Columbia University (New York), where he holds the Hagop Kevorkian Chair in Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature.

Stephan Chambers

…the leader who understands that incentives are about meaning, that large-scale, global threats are problems for business, as well as for governments and societies; that technology and human inventiveness can change the world for the better; and that only authenticity commands loyalty.”

» Stephan Chambers is MBA and EMBA director at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, and Chairman of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.

Adam Hug

…Vladimir Putin. Putin, still shaping Russia’s destiny from the White House rather than the Kremlin, provides a combination of stark strategic cunning in the international arena, with an overly tactical approach domestically that may over time undermine his strategic goals. Facing down international criticism of Russia’s actions against Georgia, domestic human rights abuses and his use of gas politics over pipeline routes through Ukraine, he has achieved divide-and-rule in European capitals, strengthened Russia’s position in its ‘near abroad,’ set back NATO expansion and consolidated power domestically.”

» Adam Hug is Policy Director at the Foreign Policy Centre, a London-based think tank.

Kelly Golnoush Niknejad

…Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He started out by Ayatollah Khomeini’s side, and so far even the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guardian Corps has not been able to unseat him. By not officially aligning himself with anyone or anything, he plays centre, right and left at the same time. He is adept at mixing power and money like only he knows how. He, simply, has no parallel in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

» Kelly Golnoush Niknejad is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tehran Bureau, a leading independent online news service in English covering politics, foreign affairs, culture and society in Iran and the Iranian diaspora.

Craig Scott

…Muammar Gaddafi. For decades, he has mastered the politics of levering a tactical existence into the consummate strategic success story for maintenance of the ruler’s own power. If he had been around 500 years ago, he might have been Machiavelli’s Prince. None of this makes him less than mad

as a hatter, but some of the oddest among us are the most cunning.”

» Craig Scott is Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, and Director of the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security (York University, Toronto).

Markus Kaim

…Wen Jiabao. This assessment follows a definition of strategy as the means or the tools by which objectives are consciously and systematically pursued and obtained over time. Since taking office in 2003, he has pursued the path of a (so far peaceful) rise of China in international relations – continously, persistently, skillfully and, to my mind, successfully. This impresses me, regardless of the domestic situation in China.”

» Markus Kaim is Head of the International Security Programme at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Berlin).

Tony Dean

…wondering what the hell is going on in the world, but is determined to make sense of what it means for her organization, its customers, partners and staff. She is comfortable in the crow’s nest – looking out beyond her mandate and positioning the organization and its people for that future. She is equally comfortable talking to staff on the front line: she knows her people; listens to them; hears their voices. They, in turn, know her and what is expected of them. She is equal parts toughness and humility, and commands tremendous loyalty and respect. She can have a laugh at her own expense: she is human.”

» Tony Dean teaches at the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto, and advises governments on policy and delivery. He is former Head of the Ontario Public Service.

Armin Seif

… (or ought to be), first and foremost, consciously guided by the wants and aspirations of the people to whom he is answerable, for sustainable and legitimate leadership is directly linked to meeting the peoples’ needs. A strategic leader fully subjects himself to the rule of law, and recognizes that he is only a leader by the grace and respect of those over whom he presides, for obedience should never be the result of compulsion. A strategic leader inspires through example. In his modus operandi, the strategic leader, among other things, always imagines the worst case scenario to prevent tragedy from arising; employs tactful oratory with reasoned argument to outwit the opponent; is quick to form alliances; able to spot and employ talent for the cause; directs tensions and energies in internal rivalries outward; motivates by awarding merit; establishes unity and excludes emotions from the decision-making process. A strategic leader is strongest when tested, and most composed at crisis and committed to diplomacy. A truly strategic leader does not lead for the sake of leading, but only to advance society. To realize the latter, he is equipped with vision, foresight and sound policies/strategies.”

» Armin Seif is an Associate at the Foreign Policy Centre, a political researcher and a postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge, UK.