Political Leadership: Oksenburg’s Theory and Mine

Vision is a very significant composition for leaders. Leaders who lead without vision is like a blind man walking in a dense jungle. Visionary leaders should exercise their vision in a right way rather than only having the vision in mind. But when we link to a lust for power and absolute ruthlessness quoted by Oksenburg, it is hard for me to assume what type of vision this leader should cultivate. However, I still stand on a right vision as the most important part for leaders before they prepare for the game of a lust for power and absolute ruthlessness.

Michel Oksenberg

Our transitional modern world moved forward tremendously with egalitarianism dominant of idea and change. This new coming trend tends to monopolize socioeconomics, politics, language, philosophy and culture in our social movements. There are large flows of convergence as well as new emerge of challenging divergence. In socioeconomic, there are larger scales of investing owned by one or two giant companies transnationally implemented. International political arena is gradually binding firmly together such as European Union or Southeast Asia plus three etc. Language is absolutely becoming one standard in communication with all aliens; and we can say English is presently universal tongue. Philosophy would be thoughtful focusing on humanitarian, sharing, toleration and empathy. This insightful thought inevitably treads on the way of moderation, negotiation and middle path. Culture seems to be less diverse that it becomes a new figure embodying the third culture product in which people create from their understanding and respect. The above few social compositions exhibit the convergence rather than divergence, but it is just the waves of flow and we cannot fathom the silent movement beneath those flooding waves.

This new emerge fascinatedly requires political leadership to handle and reframe it. For political leadership in here, politically corrected, I don’t mean to refer to those political professionals, but to those responsible leaders.

Oksenburg, who was specialist in China and former president of East West Center, laid out some idealistic formulations on leaders and leadership that include:

  • A lot of lust for power
  • Absolute ruthlessness
  • Vision
  • Many followers

The above concepts, Oksenburg intentionally referred to Chinese leaders only. But as we can see from our observation, these four concepts should characterize every leader regardless of their geography, tendency or power nature. However, some of them are my favor and some are not.

A lot of lust for power would be good if that power is legitimately gained and productively implemented. This reflects the abilities to compete fairly in the game of power with others. Those who win with unwholesome tactics, their power would be inescapably retaining hostility and becoming future lame in their leadership sphere. Furthermore, when they gain power they will absolutely utilize it to control or jeopardize opponents. Their power is naturally absolute in the political stage which always leads to totalitarianism. So speaking directly without having judgmental sense, Oksenburg intended to tell us that leaders should have a lust for power in a fair game.

Absolute ruthlessness is absolutely contradictory to this word itself, to the first concept and to the nature of leader. We always regard leader as a flexible, adaptable and understandable person. According to the important aggregate of leaders’ habits, they will not be absolutely ruthless or absolutely ruthful. Absolute ruthlessness leads to the dictatorialness but absolutely ruthfulness leads to the incapability in dealing with hard people. So the balancing in judging and implementing would be fair to be called elite leadership. Referring to the first concept, absolute ruthlessness displays well the equivalence of a lust for power, but it is contradictory to a lust for power in a fair stage. Inclusively, leaders naturally intend to sustain their positions and stabilize their power. This approach suggests their habits of decency, flexibility, intellectual and understanding. Again, leaders are required to practice in a middle path.

Vision is a very significant composition for leaders. Leaders who lead without vision is like a blind man walking in a dense jungle. Visionary leaders should exercise their vision in a right way rather than only having the vision in mind. But when we link to a lust for power and absolute ruthlessness quoted by Oksenburg, it is hard for me to assume what type of vision this leader should cultivate. However, I still stand on a right vision as the most important part for leaders before they prepare for the game of a lust for power and absolute ruthlessness.

The last concept of having a lot of followers would be important for Oksenburg. But personally, I still continue to question whether he meant citizenry of the state or the leadership companions around him. In our present transitional world, there are broad dialogues about people power, constitutional power and the equivalence between these two powers. This has already excluded mono-theory of leader or one party state. According my personal investigation, most democratic countries particularly Canada and United States are practicing the balancing power between state of law and people.

I partially agree with these four concepts of Oksenburg. I want to adjust, change and add new concepts in some of them. The below concepts are mine derived from Oksenburg’s.

  • Right Vision
  • Lust for power with genuine mindset
  • Moderate ruthfulness
  • Many helpful followers

This new adjustment is collectively considered the most important beginning of right vision leading of desire for power. When leaders cultivate right vision, their lust for power will be organized correctly. Right vision is critical and crucial to supplement lust for power with genuine mindset, moderate ruthfulness and having many helpful followers.

In some extents, my moderation adjustment doesn’t work in a real political game. Those who practice my method might experience failure. But in reality, this middle path theory is crucial in need for human beings. Future modern change gradually arrives at this theory, and in the meantime, the person who understand and practice this approach can take advantage in their political game.

Adding to Oksenburg’s concepts, I would like to share some of my opinions about political leadership that they should pursue for the power as well as for those who uplift the power.

  • Right vision
  • Right understanding
  • Right speech
  • Right action
  • Right effort
  • Right mindfulness

These six concepts are mostly influenced by middle path in Buddhism. But among them co-existed eight components which are called eightfold path. I develop these six concepts regarding of three main aspects: thought, morality and wisdom. Right vision and right understanding is important for leaders to develop their positive and critical thought. Thought is the original cause of all things. We can say that human beings cannot achieve anything especially cannot attain higher goals if they don’t have thought. Positive thought is critical to create all other positive things accordingly. Thought leads to speech, and from speech leads to action. These three components are the significant trinity of human beings. Further more, right speech and right action are the source of moral. Be true, polite, harmonious and creative with speech will result in understanding, unity and progressive in community. Be compassionate, avoiding all types of abusing and living in a moderate livelihood will result in good social ethical value. However, emotional management is good for all leaders. They have to train with right effort and concentrate their mind into a deep insight. Living with a peaceful life or working with a mindful moment would be good to remain their good-looking and personal modeling to outside world especially political leadership agenda.

Note: this article was written in 2007, it has been revised. For more info about Scholar Oksenburg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Oksenberg