LEADERSHIP NEEDED – Today


                                         Reprinted by permission of:

                                         International Business Machines

                                         Corporation, from “ How You Can

                                         Influence Foreign Policy, “

                                    THINK Magazine. Copyright 1959




Leadership is particularly important in the United States

because, unlike Europe and Asia, no caste system has ever

taken deep root in this country. In the older, more static

civilizations, because of a long tradition of monarchical

and aristocratic rule, the leader is, so to speak, often “natu-

rally” provided. A distinguished family name, a title, a

uniform — sometimes all three combined — may suffice to

establish the authority and prestige. His leadership posi-

tion is rarely questioned; his right to wield power or exert

influence is hardly challenged. He is, in the well-known

phrase, “to the manner born.”

          Not so in the United States. Here, the leader first has to

prove himself to achieve his position, and secondly, he has

to exert himself to retain it. This, in essence, is a part of

America’s democratic dynamism. It was recognized long ago

by an early democrat, Thomas Jefferson, that democracy,

by rejecting the idea and the practice of a caste system, must

therefore rely on what he called a ‘‘natural aristocracy.~~

Nature, he said, scatters human talents among all types of

people, rich and poor alike, and this reservoir of abilities

must be used for leadership and enrichment of democracy.

          American life today exemplifies Jefferson’s conception of

a natural aristocracy. Whether in business or government

or the professions, America’s leaders are generally those

whose positions were attained through individual effort and

skill, rather than birth. Cases of inherited wealth and social

status do exist among the leaders, but the majority, includ-

ing the last two Presidents of the United States, come from

modest homes. Surveys indicate that most leaders—mayors,

presidents of civic organizations, members of Congress,

heads of industries—are college graduates and, on commun-

ity levels, more than half of them have professional degrees.

The educational ladder—that is, training for positions of

power and influence — still remains the primary avenue of

advancement in American life.


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