Fri, Jun 21, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Erdogan needs to earn moral authority to rule

By Thomas Friedman  /  NY Times News Service, ISTANBUL, Turkey

Or as Ilke, 30, an aerospace engineer standing next to me said — before we were scattered by tear gas — “They are trying to make rules about religion and to force them on everyone. Democracy is not just about what the majority wants. It’s also what the minority wants. Democracy is not just about elections.”

Erdogan (like Russian President Vladimir Putin) confuses “being in power with having power,” said Dov Seidman, whose company, LRN, advises chief executives on governance and is author of the book How.

“There are essentially just two kinds of authority: formal authority and moral authority,” he added. “And moral authority is now so much more important than formal authority” in today’s interconnected world, “where power is shifting to individuals who can easily connect and combine their power exponentially for good or ill.”

You don’t get moral authority just from being elected or born, Seidman said: “Moral authority is something you have to continue to earn by how you behave, by how you build trust with your people... Every time you exercise formal authority — by calling out the police — you deplete it. Every time you exercise moral authority, leading by example, treating people with respect, you strengthen it.”

Any leader who wants to lead just “by commanding power over people should think again,” he added.

“In this age, the only way to effectively lead is to generate power through people,” Seidman said, because you have connected with them “in a way that earned their trust and enlisted them in a shared vision.”

Can Erdogan learn these lessons? Turkey’s near-term stability and his legacy hang on the answer.

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