Great Leaders Feel Deserving

Many potential leaders never reach greatness because they feel they lack a mandate to lead.

Consider the case of Babur.

Babur ascended the throne of Fergana in in what is now Uzbekistan.   It was 1494, when Spain was claiming Caribbean islands, and Babur was only 12 years old.   At age 14 he led his forces to conquer Samarkand.   Soon after, he lost Fergana, his original holding.  Attempting to reconquer Fergana, he lost control of both.

Five years later, Babur tried to capture both again and failed.  He should have become a tent maker, or used his influence to amass wealth along the silk road trade, which passed through the region.   But he was the grandson of Timur (aka Tamerlane).   It was his right to lead.

So Babur turned his attention southward.

He invaded northern India, and built the Mughal empire.   It lasted until the British Raj in 1858.

The Muslim presence in India facilitated the export of Indian knowledge to Europe and the Arab world.   This included mathematics.

Mathematics made commerce and industry possible.   It made the technology revolution possible.


A common cause of failure to launch is what psychologists call Imposter Syndrome.  Many people fear others will discover their inadequacies.   “Only a matter of time before people figure out I’m a fraud, that I’m only pretending to be talented.”   Amanda Palmer (of Dresden Dolls) calls it the Fraud Police.

You probably are faking it a little.   Everyone is.   You must be courageous anyway.   We have to be comfortable with not being completely adequate, because no one is adequate.

Be like Babur.   Be a tenacious, entitled brat.   Just a little.   And eventually you will become the leader you need to be.   Then you’ll change the world.

Kiss a Leper: Leadership and Self-Contrarianism

This post is part of my leadership lessons from history series.

Leadership requires courage of conviction. Working up to that strength requires overcoming your personal fears.

The Franciscans are a Catholic order that is impressive by many standards.  They somehow continually convince people (currently 14,000 friars) to give up every personal comfort.  They sponsor numerous universities.  They are respected by people of many faiths.  Their influence is felt around the world.

This global organization started with a leader who was a truly remarkable man.

Francis attracted followers simply through the force of his personal conviction.  He always did what he believed was right, which attracted people to his cause.

Francis felt that God told him to do the opposite of what he had done and felt in the past.  He became a self-contrarian.

He was raised in wealth, so he chose to eschew money.  His father taught him to care for assets, so he tossed all personal possessions.

In one story, Francis had an intense aversion to those with leprosy.  He could not even look at lepers, and avoided areas where they lived.  He was one day riding a horse and passed a leper.  He dismounted and kissed the leper on the lips.  (In another version of the story, he kissed the leper’s hand.)  Through this act, Francis was able to overcome his revulsion and happily live among lepers.

To become a great leader and start a movement lasting hundreds of years, maybe you should also become self-contrarianism.

Try doing the opposite of what you have always been taught to do.  Only make decisions with sufficient data?  Try following your gut.

Plan each day to the minute?  Allow some spontaneity once a week.

Have a policy against hiring uneducated people?  Embrace real diversity by hiring someone without a degree.

Prepare extensively for important meetings?  Try opening up a meeting to someone else’s agenda.

Generate ideas through brainstorming meetings?  Try accepting the research that proves brainstorming is ineffective, and try crowdsourcing or individual idea generation or idea contests or word-association games.

What is the ONE thing you most fear?  Phone prospecting?  Arising early to exercise?  Speaking in public?  Talking about your feelings?

Do that thing now and get it over with.

::: Be fierce. Be kind. Be knowledge-hungry. :::

Stop Killing Creativity

61E86D67-40F3-4C26-82BF-62C083FCD170Korea is being crushed between low-cost countries, and high-cost-but-innovative countries.  If Korea is to survive as a First World country, it must become more creative.  Korea must become the Finland of Asia.

I spent some time in Korea this week, searching for creativity examples.  I’ll share some examples in the future, because Korea is full of amazing people.  I will remark here about two socio-cultural opportunities for Korea to improve.

#1: Nourish Creativity

I worked for three years in Korea’s technology research capitol, Daejeon.  Samsung, LG, and other tech firms develop new technology alongside university and governmental research facilities.  While living in Korea, I often heard the complaint that Korea “needs to be more creative.”

I disagree.  I believe that Koreans are very creative.  Korea is a world leader in patent registration.  But I have a theory, based on a few data points.

I postulate that Koreans excel in creative potential, based on the neuroscientist’s view of creativity: when the brain needs to understand something new or to solve a new problem, it accesses memories.  Because Koreans study so much, they have more data to access for solving problems.

However, once creative young people graduate and join companies, their ideas are crushed.  In the strict top-down management style of the culture, only the boss has good ideas, and subordinates follow.  Young people stop proposing ideas after they are crushed a few times.

If young Koreans were able to propose ideas and act on them, their creativity muscles would grow rather than shrink.  And companies would greatly benefit.

#2: Look to the future, not the past

Stoking resentment against certain ethnic groups or social classes by those with power agendas is not confined to Korea.  It was the basis of both Marxism/Leninism and National Socialism, which both seem to be resurging rather than shrinking.  Korea has their own version: hating Japan.

“I love Japanese, but I hate Japan,” I often hear Koreans say.

My advice to Korea and to everyone in the world: turn away from hatred.  A few individuals seem to benefit when they make others angry against Japan for their behavior during the colonial era.  Many Japanese soldiers mistreated Korea, like the Mongols and soldiers in some Chinese dynasties.  But no one stages anti-Mongolian rallies in Korea.  I suppose the memory is more vivid because the Japanese colonial era is more recent.  But Japan has also assisted Korea’s economy in many ways.  Along with the U.S., they funded corporate growth.  They also built crucial infrastructure.

Misbehavior should never be excused.  But looking to the future is more beneficial than ruminating on the past.  Fueling resentment for ancient misdeeds does not build a glorious future.  Please let the wounds heal, and move forward.

Korea is just an example here for all of us.  Many people in the world are caught in hate cycles, either because someone earns more money or because someone is an outsider.  Everyone in the world needs to change in two ways:

1. You are ignoring an important source of creative ideas.

2. You resent someone or something, and that resentment is a creativity block.


:::  Be fierce.  Be kind.  Be knowledge-hungry.  :::

Your Political Beliefs Are Mistaken

Each of us holds a worldview. It is the lens through which we understand the world.  Because our worldviews are different, we interpret the political situation differently.  And that is okay.

B8FACF5D-A522-4C16-931E-D478AE5014EFOver 200 years ago, Napoleon’s Grand Armee was sweeping across Europe.  The French Empire was rapidly growing and no one could stop it.  Then the Kingdom of Prussia fell to Napolean at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt.

Germans feared their culture would vanish, as French would become universal and everyone would forget German language and culture. The Brothers Grimm hastily collected as many folk tales as they could, to preserve pieces of their culture before it was swept away forever.64F11459-3730-4828-9F69-9ADFFE1CC073

Then Waterloo came, and Napoleon was gone.  Problem solved.

img_4504I have been studying political science since dial telephones. That is long enough to see patterns. This is what I learned: I have seen powerful, frightening menaces arise, threatening our way of life.  Then rivals rally, and the threats subside.

Situations change. Trends ebb and flow. In the short term, a situation might be grim. But in the medium term we will be fine.  Regardless of your political beliefs, you can relax a little.  Focus on what is more important.

The Case For Ignoring Politics

Being involved in the political process is crucial.  You should speak up against idiots, bullies, people who use your money to buy votes, and bureaucratic inertia.  But don’t let them get in the way of your personal development.  Remember, power brokers benefit when we are outraged by their opponents.  So they purposely feed our anger, and try to confuse us.

Imagine someone 200 years ago, worrying all day about Napoleon. So the worrier neglected personal development.  After the Napoleonic threat was past, the worrier may have had nothing on which to build a new life.

Fun fact:  the historian Paul Johnson believed that both Hitler and Lenin were products of an age increasingly obsessed by politics.  (not so fun, really.)

Are you worried about our world’s situation?  Forget about it.  Instead, focus on maintaining friendships, aerobic exercise, and building your mind.  Keep working to reach your personal goals.  For example, I recommend you spend 30 minutes every day in creative activity.

IGNORE SITUATIONS that you cannot influence.  In the next cycle, our situation will be fixed.

::: Be fierce.  Be kind.  Be knowledge-hungry. :::.