Former US Secretary of State (who is now nearly 100 years old) has published a new book, Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy.
Noema magazine reviews the main thrust of it, which based on their take - makes it certainly sound like a worthwhile read.
Henry Kissinger, consummate diplomat and statesman, examines the strategies of six great twentieth-century figures and brings to life a unifying theory of leadership and diplomacy.
“Leaders,” writes Henry Kissinger in this compelling book, “think and act at the intersection of two axes: the first, between the past and the future; the second, between the abiding values and aspirations of those they lead. They must balance what they know, which is necessarily drawn from the past, with what they intuit about the future, which is inherently conjectural and uncertain. It is this intuitive grasp of direction that enables leaders to set objectives and lay down a strategy.”
The book examines the leadership traits of 6 renown personalities: Charles De Gaulle, Lee Kuan Yew, Konrad Adenauer, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat and Margaret Thatcher.
What it really highlights is that great leaders are able to juggle a compelling vision of the future, with a deft touch of understanding people's fears and anxieties in the present and helping to guide them through the transition.
Rupture can come with a whimper, in which a way of seeing the world finally succumbs to the entropy of the outmoded. Or it can come with a bang, such as a devastating war. The daunting challenge, in either case, is how to convincingly frame the shifting spirit of the times in a manner that organizes the energy and direction of society into a force field that propels it along a fresh path.
He distinguishes how two types of leaders — the “statesman” and “the prophet” — face challenges differently.
The statesman “tempers” visions of change with a realistic understanding of political and economic constraints as he or she seeks to open space for evolution while preserving their society “by manipulating circumstances rather than being overwhelmed by them.” In contrast, the prophet, or visionary, “treats prevailing institutions less from the perspective of the possible” than from a vision of the imperative to change the very definition of what is possible.
For Kissinger, the best leaders who made the most difference flexibly fashioned an “optimal blend” that successfully navigated constraints to realize new possibilities through evolutionary stability. This brings to mind the old adage that, without vision, people suffer; with vision untempered by recognition of ground realities, more people suffer.
The good question is - 'where are these great leaders now?'
There seems to be a global vacuum when it comes to gifted leadership - one which is becoming more and more apparent every day.
Kissinger's new book is as much about leadership as it is about strategy; written by somebody who no matter what your personal feelings are about the man, has a wealth of wisdom when it comes to the craft of diplomacy.
Hopefully it's on Boris Johnson's Christmas reading list.