The nature of leadership -

The nature of leadership


Carleton professor Waller Newell talks to Steve Paikin about political leadership.

The full discussion—including our Andrew Coyne—is here.


The nature of leadership

  1. Interesting discussion. Thanks for posting it, Aaron.

  2. My word, what a platitudinous bore. Is Newell's plodding tome of warmed-over truisms really worth publishing, much less publicising through redundant interviews?

    "Whom would you name as a great leader, Dr. Newell?"

    "Well, Abraham Lincoln, for one." Shocking! [yawn]…

    Then, he's asked to name a great leader from the 20th Century and comes up with Ronnie Reagan (another shocker). Take that, Nelson Mandela.

    Really, will the Reagan cult please understand that we're not all members and that we just get embarrassed on your behalf when you name-drop him as the cynosure of all that is good and pure in the world?

    Then we learn that Newell's perspective is fundamentally contradictory: he asserts that "conviction, charisma, and character" are the three salient features of political greatness, then names W.L. Mackenzie King–who had none of the three–as Canada's greatest leader.

    There are many vital, fascinating scholars doing excellent research out there, Mr. Paikin. Find them, and invite them.

  3. That was interesting.

    It seems to me that there are two kinds of "great leaders". There are "great leaders" in the sense of people who lead their people to some very large transformation, and there are "great leaders" in the sense of people who lead their people to some very good transformation. The first is a subset of the second and includes the likes of Mao Tse Tung, Richelieu, etc. The second is limited to people like Lincoln, Pericles, Washington, Churchill, etc.

    It's not clear to me which kind Newell is speaking of here. He lists only the second kind, but the qualifications to which he refers (character, charisma, conviction, and circumstance) apply to both. If we restrict ourselves to the second type then an additional quality is prerequisite: discernment. Such leaders must be able to discern the common good. Otherwise one gets a charismatic leader with strong conviction and character leading the way to great disaster.

  4. It's Waller not Walter Newall.

  5. He made a big boo, boo – said that Lincoln was not very well educated – huh? Lincoln was a lawyer.

    • I said that neither Churchill nor Lincoln were formally well-educated, i.e. neither attended a university. That was not necessary in Lincoln's time in order to become a lawyer. As for Churchill, his father did not think he deserved to go to university, so he went to a military academy instead. Both, of course, were superbly well educated, but self-educated. Lincoln loved reading Shakespeare. Some scholars think he read some ancient Greek and Roman authors in translation. Churchill was a voracious reader and, as we all know, a historian of great distinction himself.