Thoughts on leadership: At what cost?

If you pay close attention to history, you’ll notice that it is rife with people who followed a leader straight into a precipice. Just this week, the leader of North Korea is threatening to attack the United States. The United States! He may live in a very secluded part of the world, where electricity and the internet are commodities, but, surely, he must know that the United States is the lone superpower in terms of the military, right?

Surely we can cut a little here and there?
Surely we can cut a little here and there? (Source)

The guy must be joking. It is suicide to grab a paperclip and run up to a platoon of soldiers, trying to stab them with it. But I digress…

The United States is not immune to misguided leaders. The Iraq War was launched in 2003 based on some very fragile data, and it got us all into what was obviously a quandary. Yes, there were people who opposed the invasion, but there were apparently enough people supporting it to get us into that mess. However, that mess doesn’t compare to the messes other leaders have gotten their people into.

Of course, the obvious example, and one that we should never forget (and has had no equal since) is Hitler and his group. He rose to power quite fast, riding the sentiments of the German people after the First World War. His party’s success in resurrecting their country was a phenomenal accomplishment from the economic point of view. From the social… Eh, not so much. And that whole waging war on the world again thing? The perfect example of leadership gone wrong.

So why does it keep happening?

Well, one of the reasons it keeps happening is that humans are social animals that look for leadership. We clump around in families, then clans, then villages, then towns, then cities, and we always look for a leader. Even anarchists do this and then get leaders, which makes them not anarchists.

Anarchy, you're doing it wrong.
Anarchy, you’re doing it wrong.

All in all, if your heart is in it, but your intentions are bad, then you’ll suck as a leader. Likewise, if your intentions are good, but your heart is not in it, then you’ll suck as a leader as well. Then again, just having your heart in it and having good intentions is not enough to make you a good leader. More on that later…

I'm a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen