Successful Leadership

December 24, 2007
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Leadership can be found in a myriad of different forms. There are oligarchies, monarchs, tyrants, and democratic representatives. But for all these governments, an age-old question remains: As a leader, is it better to be loved or feared? I believe it is better to be a loved leader than a feared one, as illustrated by the success of loved leaders, such as Elizabeth I of England, over feared leaders, such as Saddam Hussein.

Queen Elizabeth I was one of the most beloved and powerful monarchs of England, and the world. Although throughout her life enemies would have liked to prevent her from gaining power, the peoples’ support of her facilitated her rise to power. For example, when Elizabeth was tried for conspiring in the Wyatt rebellion of 1544, Mary, her half-sister and reigning queen, hesitated to execute her because of Elizabeth’s public appeal and many adherents. “Many of those surrounding the Queen would have liked Elizabeth to have been executed, but there was no evidence against her and she was popular with the people”1. If Elizabeth were more feared and more of a threat to the Queen, Mary would’ve had no qualms about decapitating her then and there. Because of her popularity, Elizabeth wasn’t killed, and would later go on to rule England. Another way Elizabeth’s popularity made her a better leader was that the people were united under her, because she stressed the good of England as a whole, not just selfish desire. If a policy of hers would benefit her but was unpopular with the common people, she would repeal it. United under respect and loyalty for their “virgin” queen, the English became more powerful than ever before. When King Philip of Spain thought that England could be his for the taking and advanced his armada on them, Queen Elizabeth I led her unified army on to defeat the Spanish. Since Queen Elizabeth’s likeability and political negotiation skills had unified the country before torn apart by religious squabbles, her army was more driven to protect their newfound power than the Spanish army was to take it. Had England been ruled under a feared monarch, the army would’ve been less motivated to protect his power, therefore more likely to lose, or just favour the Spanish rule and rebel against him.

On the other hand, while Elizabeth was a successful and loved leader, Saddam Hussein was a cruel and feared dictator who is now one of the most infamous tyrants in history. Under Saddam, the Iraqi people lived in constant fear of arbitrary persecution. Saddam was known for severely punishing his political enemies and even his former allies from whom he desired power. Also, he sometimes would use biological warfare to put down dissenters (the Kurdish rebellion in the early 1980’s) and aspired to rule the Muslim world. This not only made his own country-men live in fear of his regime, but also the surrounding nations. Although “hate” isn’t a synonym of “fear” per se, the two are almost always inherent. Therefore, many countries had proper motive to want an end to Hussein’s rule. They found their chance when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Having persuaded the United Nations to take action, anti-invasion troops annihilated Hussein’s army in Kuwait. Yet, the final blow to Hussein’s power didn’t come until 2003 when the United States (believing he had hidden nuclear weapons) overthrew his administration and captured him. Had Saddam been liked rather than feared, perhaps he wouldn’t have had such a tragic end and negative reputation. Maybe if he had gained power through honest means instead of corruption and murder, or cared more for the general well-being of Iraq over self-preservation of power, he would be an esteemed leader today, and have led Iraq to greatness, not to the chaos and civil war Iraq is in now. Iraq was like a bottle being shaken; to prevent the contents from bubbling out, he had two options: cap the bottle by intimidating the people into submission, or stop the shaking by uniting the people in patriotism and the well-being of Iraq. Of course, Hussein chose to cap the bottle, which worked well in the short term, but once the cap (Saddam) was removed, the contents (religious conflict between the Shiites and Sunnis) violently exploded from the bottle. Say Saddam had decided to stop the shaking, an arduous task that would take diplomacy rather than sheer force, the contents wouldn’t have bubbled out of the bottle, but would still, and eventually be at peace. If he had done this, he would be an esteemed leader revered by many, instead of the infamous and feared autocrat that is now one of the most hated men in history.

Both the histories of Queen Elizabeth I of England and Saddam Hussein illustrate how loved leaders are ultimately more successful than feared rulers. From Elizabeth who was a surprisingly brilliant queen that unified England into a great power, to Saddam Hussein who is hated for being a terrorizing tyrant, all leaders need to ask themselves what the best way to rule is. As wisely stated by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, “Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy."

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