Rethinking leadership

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the USA State Secretary visits Armenia soon. I’d like to share a parallel that her visit, actually her persona recalled in my memory. Before becoming the highest-ranking cabinet secretary, before running for the mantle of presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party in US presidential campaign of 2008, before two terms as a Senator from New York, she was the First Lady of the United States.

The First Lady Hillary will remain to me a leader who took an unprecedented decision exposing the true meaning of human values, a leader, sensitive to interests of her society and family. She is a leader, who gave a lesson to the entire world and human history for how to act when our family and society face a crisis and when the loved one of our hearth and the leader of our nation is in the hearth of the crisis. With all mixed outrage and sorrow, courage and love, shiver and disgrace the burden of your decision critical both for your family and for your country. In this situation have been thousands of royal consorts and millions of spouses throughout history, yet very few have made faithful decision. I believe that the very moment of taking her decision to save her family thus saving the reputation of the nation’s leader and the prestige of the nation became Hillary’s moment of truth, the moment when this unprecedented leader was baptized. Her early political development and young activism were simply a prelude to this moment. As a result, today United States have not only a skilled and experienced head of state department but first and foremost a trusted and reliable leader. In the beginning of the 21st century USA has a leadership for the bad times, a leadership for times of crisis, people of America have Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I recalled to this story on the eve of Hillary’s visit to Armenia, as I again and again ask myself a question: what type of leadership Armenian society needs this days of financial, economic but first and foremost political crisis? Obviously, Armenian authorities and political leaders do not meet the expectations of common people who are fairly dissatisfied and disappointed in government after government for the second decade of independence. However, do Armenian public opinion leaders and civil society recognize that Armenian governments, which deserve disappointment and dissatisfaction so frequently, are the part of our society and of our Armenia’s past, present and future. What is the decision that Armenian civil society leaders take facing outrage and sorrow, courage and love, shiver and disgrace? What are the choices in this really Shakespearean drama? Either to impeach the government and request a “divorce”, surrender? Or to take the painful path of adaptive leadership looking beyond the very problem, to pave a way for transformation of political culture in the country and to take the responsibility?

I see that the most civil society and political leaders take the first choice. Yet, there are some other leaders and institutions that take different choices. While equally suffering from today’s political reality, and instead of crying of grief and hate, they overcome their own disappointment and dissatisfaction for the sake of better future. They recognize that Armenia is another family where the love has persisted for decades. It is very difficult and unpopular to be cooperative and adaptive living among the confrontative majority. It is even more difficult to you see those who share your values engaged in confrontation, as those who only criticize are not able to bear responsibility and lead. Yet, it is painful twice when being blamed for cooperation and leadership.

The fruit of family values grows slowly. Yet, is there alternative for real transformation? The values target long run and deeper changes and it is worth to nurture those values. I shall only hope that more and more institutions and leaders will take the responsibility for change and will make harder but faithful decisions. Hillary Rodham Clinton who used to bear heavy burden of responsibility and to make hard decisions is arriving soon. Her visit is a good occasion for all of us to rethink our choices.

And as she said once: “No one understands me better!”


6 Comments to “Rethinking leadership”

  1. Irina said...
    July 1, 2010

    Tevan, I really like the analogy.
    And my choice would be the second one as well – because walking away, divorcing, “impeaching”, is the easy thing to do, but often short lived.
    The analogy also is strong when we realize that in both cases lack of trust is the problem hindering the transformation. Where the analogy, however, fails is in the fact that with an individual you have a single voice promising change, and asking to put your trust in his hands. In case of Armenian leaders we don’t have the cohesive leadership that would speak with one voice, that would say – “this is our national interest and above all party politics this is what our nation should strive for and we will lead you there”. I think that lack of cohesion which leads to a chronic lack of trust in our society serves as a major obstacle for a sound transformation…. where do we start?

  2. Mozart said...
    July 1, 2010

    I share the argument (“to take the painful path of adaptive leadership”) but dislike strongly the analogy. In general analogy is the weakest scientific method. In this particular case gender analogy sucks: the government should not be an irresponsible, brutal, masculine reaper, who violates nation’s weak, fragile, feminine populace. That sounds as an incitement to domestic violence and appeasement of a reaper.

  3. NVM said...
    July 1, 2010

    You’ve mentioned trust, so instrumental to runing big conglomerates of people be it corporations or societies, is lacking in our country. Unfortunately, when you look back, the analogies do not give one any hint of trust, which does not mean that one will have to turn away from what one has, here would be the first step of making the trust a living concept.

    For that, though, we will have to start buidling an immune system that allows one to evolve around themes and develop a discourse, showing the boundaries of operation for any government. Thus, the civic society becomes a must, the porfessional unions and assosiations so scarce in our political environment will have to be actively developed, for us to start wiriting the history of trust for Armenian nation.

  4. Syur said...
    July 1, 2010

    Well, I enjoyed the statement “No one understands me better!” as it does not reveal what was exactly her motivation in behaving so. Frankly, I never think about anyone’s personal life and I am not the one who would change such approach to someone just cause (s)he is a president of a country. US and Armenian societies (and many others, better to say most) are sick from that perspective as they have some “family values” exposed to the society. If there is a family value that must be very personal and must live within myself and must not be affected by 3rd parties’ opinions. At ALL! I would not care more or less on my wife’s behavior dependent on my status in the society. I would behave the same way as I am a worker at a factory. So, if Hillary thinks similar to me – she did the best thing she could: she behaved as a proper member of a family (a family rather than the family): she analyzed herself the situation and kept the society away from that by saying the very statement “No one understands me better!”

    Hence, if the above assumption is correct, then I would think Hillary is a person that deserves a respect: respect not as a woman, not as a wife, not as a wife of a president, not as a political person having longer-term goals that she did not want to disrupt by her husband’s asocial (asocial by perception but not by the essence) behavior. She deserves the respect as a human being that is an individual thinker but not a dependent factor from the society!

  5. Anna Shahnazaryan said...
    July 2, 2010

    I concur with Syur on his gender(persona)-neutralizing points about values, decisions etc.
    At the same time I’m strongly convinced (have experienced many examples) that public image is deceitful when it comes to values and their exposition, especially in the American society.
    As for Tevan’s post, it’s interesting to read his thoughts, analogy if it may be (analogies are indeed misleading though), however I’m alarmed about this visit, the political background behind it and the determination about a binding resolution that the visit is pursuing. I’m not sure her leadership qualities will be of advantage to our nation.
    Praying for the alarm to disappear…

  6. Tevan said...
    July 3, 2010

    I would like to express gratitude for all your comments. I truly appreciate both criticisms and support. I would also like to mention that there were even more reactions I have received from various people directly on my e-mail and phone calls. I would like to encourage always you to keep commenting at ICHD’s blog as it we see it a space for open and frank discussion and commenting. I would also like to encourage those who contact me directly to reflect on the blog as we will do our best to keep it further as a safe environment.

    There are some points on which I would like to reflect. Firstly, my point was not on gender issues but rather on behavior and leadership of a statesperson. I tried to share my view of leadership that any statesperson should exercise when private and public issues are being weighted. Indeed, personal/private pain demands much more strength and standing. Yet, most important is not a personal story of how one will stand against the pressure on both national and international levels. Does our civil society have a leadership to forgive our political leaders some domestic mistakes for becoming stronger as a society facing international challenges? Or Do our political leaders recognize that being sensitive to the needs of own society is much more important than interface with international affairs?

    We face a lot of problems and issues. We also get a lot of pressure from foreign and most important domestic powers. But are we truly rethinking our choices and exercise leadership to stand all negative and implement all positive? At least at the critical points.

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