One important thing successful leaders don't take for granted

Technology Eye | Aug. 08, 2016

"And while we cannot expect that everybody will learn the lessons of history, we can at least insist on basic decency and universal values of ethics which must include non-violence, the golden rule of reciprocity and respect for others."

Georg Kell, Founding Director of the United Nations Global Compact

Drawing on this call to decency, “rule of law” provides an agreed set of ethical standards which help ensure accountability, equality, prosperity and wise governance. Without leadership which understands and respects the rule of law, there is little possibility for trust, health and sustainability for generations to come. Unerring respect for scientific guidance, inclusivity, and careful rhetoric are crucial ingredients for real leadership.


Trust comes before everything. The collective observance of law is crucial to trust of all kinds. We need to be able to predict with a reasonable degree of probability what will happen in our “neighborhoods", whether they are physical, monetary, intellectual or emotional. Law, formal and informal, provides a common framework of expectations to which everybody in a community subscribes. It creates the freedom for measured experimentation and risk taking. It enables innovation, and it defines the boundary where the possibility for trust ends and lawlessness and recklessness start. Without lawfulness, trust is lost to a high-stakes poker game of survival to live for tomorrow, whether it’s with our relationships with each other, our money, or our environment. Without rule of law enabling trust, long-term decisions which balance the needs of future generations with the needs of today (“sustainability”) are very unlikely to happen. Next generations don’t matter when survival tomorrow is the challenge.

Health to Flourish

Second there is health, and the potential to flourish. Law is crucial to health of all kinds, including physical, emotional, and environmental. Most foundational is the physical security provided by an equitable system of civil and criminal justice. Rule of law creates the possibility for physical safety not based on coercion. Building on this is the possibility for economic development through the institution of work, which carries with it the possibility of doing something significant, however small, and the legal expectation of being rewarded for it. This in turn, allows for the provisioning of essentials like food, shelter, education and an inner sense of purpose which comes from work. Even deeper, a lawful, trusting place encourages engaging in charitable, inclusive and loving relationships. These deep forms of meaning carry with them validation and the possibility for the creation of new forms of living, which matter a great deal to us. Finally, living in natural environments protected by law carries with it the promise of clean air, water, and land, and then the possibility for engagement with the beauty and mystery of our fragile planet. Without “rule of law”, we forfeit to a large degree our chances for health through security, work, love and our environment.

Leadership to Sustainability

So how does leadership relate to rule of law? In short, law is crucial to leadership, and leadership is crucial to law. Being a leader, at any level, is about the observance and creation of rule of law, formal or informal, to promote trust and the possibility for health in its many forms. We so often take these horizons for granted, and true leaders do not. A true leader is one who holds sacred the collective power and importance of rule of law. She is careful not to undermine it through public discourse. He understands the delicate balance oftentimes in play, and only issues a challenge after deep ethical and scientific deliberation. She understands that rule of law is a fragile reed, and that if its importance is called into doubt, much of what we hold valuable can quickly be lost.

So what does this all mean for individuals with the power to help choose leaders and the “universal values” which Georg Kell references above? It means that rule of law in its many forms, formal and informal, is sacred. It also means that those leaders or potential leaders who trivialize it for personal or political gain are dangerous. Without rule of law, there is no trust, health, leadership or possibility for business and society to flourish sustainably, as established and agreed in the world’s Sustainable Development Goals . Science, equity, compassion, inclusivity and reflection are crucial tools. For the individual, this means it is vitally important to chose leaders who will lead us, and more importantly the generations to come, towards these things.

SOURCE: World Economic Forum

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