Civilization of mankind could not have advanced without leadership. A family, a tribe, a clan, a nation could not move forward without the delineation of a destination and the means to get to the destination. Collective discussion is great for delineating alternatives and their advantages and disadvantages, but without laser-like focus of all this energy, the discussion would be just discussion: namely, talk without action. Without action, the most noble or intelligent discussion would dissipate in thin air. Words are odorless, tasteless, weightless and useless waves of sound, unless backed by work. Thoughts are mirages of fancy, unless brought to implementation. Easy decisions are the purview of small thinkers. Hard choices are the burden of leadership.
Leadership requires that a choice be made and a course be charted for the implementation of that choice. There never was a time in history where mankind was given the opportunity to select the best choice. In order to select the best choice, one must exhaust the analysis of all choices: an exercise of futility, since, no matter what the problem, the choices are infinite. Instead, we are faced with a bunch of available choices, and a leader must choose the alternative that is the least bad.
Mankind did not advance by the non-action of meek and indecisive men. All advancement was made possible by bold and decisive men who were not afraid of failure. The fear of failure is the single-most devastating enemy of success. Leaders have been vilified by their contemporaries for defying the norm, only to be lionized later by history. Think of the material and personal risk that the Founding Fathers of this great country put themselves in by deciding on a course of action to change civilization. Think of the choices that were placed in front of Abraham Lincoln and imagine yourself sitting alone in a dark bedroom with your face in your hands and making the decision that would end up costing the lives of tens of thousands of people, in order to save the greater cause.
Leadership requires the striving to reach over the horizon and seeing the outlines of the future and being the vanguard of shaping that future. Leadership requires a fearlessness that, to the eyes of the average person, borders on insanity. Fearlessness is not recklessness. Recklessness is the commitment to a battle with a dubious mission and the mindless execution of a poorly-thought-out plan. Fearlessness is the ability to execute a well-thought-out plan under the most adverse conditions, selflessly, without flinching, and with the focus on the end result.
Legacy is not a luxury: it is a duty. It is up to us now, as it was up to our parents before us and our grandparents before them, to shape the future for the betterment of mankind. If we succeed, history will judge us as worthy stewards of our legacy. If we don’t, we will be relegated to the dustbin of the past.
John O. Vartan