Sun, Sep 18, 2016 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Ex-National Security Council head opines on leadership

While the leadership of the nation’s recent heads of state has seemingly run into criticism and has become a constant subject of debate within Taiwanese society, few have offered an objective discussion based on academic study of leadership. In a recent interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Tzou Jiing-wen, former National Security Council secretary-general Ting Yu-chou offered his opinions on leadership in decisionmaking

Former National Security Council secretary-general Ting Yu-chou poses for a photograph in Taipei on Aug. 30.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

Liberty Times: What do you think leadership is?

Ting Yu-chou (丁渝洲): I think the following three phrases encapsulate the essence of leadership: A leader leads people; the core of leading is to win over people’s hearts; and the highest level of leadership is to achieve the extraordinary with an ordinary team.

Many people commonly mistake leadership with management. Management is the effective combination and utilization of staff, work, timing, location and resources with scientific methods toward the goal of achieving maximum team efficiency.

However, leading is making decisions that management executes. A leader envisions the future, while a manager is immersed in the present; a leader pursues innovation, a manager maintains the “status quo.” A leader’s strength comes from his or her unique characteristics, their professional knowledge and a strong sense of duty. A manager draws power from station, which is reinforced by regulation.

In short, leading is an art, while managing is a science: A leader presides over the conceptual, while a manager oversees the actual work. The higher the rank, the more leading one has to do, while the ratio of management is significantly heavier in the lower ranks.

However, regardless of rank, management is leadership, and vice versa; they are simply two sides of the same coin.

That said, there is still a significant difference between managing and leading. The US Military Academy, commonly known as West Point, has turned out three presidents — two presidents of the US, Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower, and the president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis — and about 5,000 generals and military leaders, many of whom went on to become chairmen and CEOs of the 500 largest corporations in the world.

That there are more people in these corporations who were educated at West Point than other first-rate universities is due to its educational methodology. At West Point, students are not only expected to learn and internalize all knowledge taught, but they are also taught about honor, responsibility and teamwork as a part of fostering a healthy personal character, or put simply, a leader.

In management schools, especially those in Taiwan, the courses offered are structured around the core concept of imparting professional knowledge, with courses on leadership being rare. This is perhaps why we have many managers in Taiwanese businesses, but very few leaders.

What I am trying to say is this: A leader is difficult to find. For example, look at how many deans and teachers you meet while in school, and how many superiors you have after finishing your education. How many of those individuals have truly earned your respect, or made you want to emulate them?

The importance of leadership is the power of authority given to an individual — the ability to appoint personnel, to dispense resources and take control of policy. A leader is the soul of a unit, and is key to the unit’s success or failure.

A good leader has a vision of what they want the unit to become, but also possesses the ability to resolve problems that the unit might encounter. A leader’s value lies in the fact that they are able to achieve a mission, even under duress.

[US Army] general George Patton took command of the army’s II Corps following its defeat at the hands of [German general] Erwin Rommel at the Battle of Kasserine Pass in North Africa. Within two weeks, Patton had introduced sweeping changes, which allowed the unit to push back German-Italian armor at the Battle of El Guettar near Gafsa, Tunisia.

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