As a leadership advisor, are you a cool calculator, or a messy amateur humanist? On Monday, NY Times columnist David Brooks devoted a thoughtful column to the subject. He wrote that the gathering trend over the last half-century toward leaders being surrounded by advisors (which must include speechwriters) has kept leaders from following their own instincts and emotions in favor of following their advisors’ shrewd advice.
Along the way, Brooks described the proper attitude for a leader, drawn from Edmund Burke:
It begins with a warm gratitude toward that which you have inherited and a fervent wish to steward it well. It is propelled by an ardent moral imagination, a vision of a good society that can’t be realized in one lifetime. It is informed by seasoned affections, a love of the way certain people concretely are and a desire to give all a chance to live at their highest level.
This kind of leader is warm-blooded and leads with full humanity. In every White House, and in many private offices, there seems to be a tug of war between those who want to express this messy amateur humanism and those calculators who emphasize message discipline, preventing leaks and maximum control. In most of the offices, there’s a fear of natural messiness, a fear of uncertainty, a distrust of that which is not scientific. The calculators are given too much control.