[Outlook]Disposition critical to leadershipWhat leads a president to fail? Experts who study U.S. presidents talk about two reasons ― either they are corrupt or they are unskilled. Of course, sometimes they could be both. A corrupt president makes his country full of corruption. Among Korean former presidents, two went to jail due to their corruption. Some aides or sons of former presidents were imprisoned, which makes the presidents involved failed presidents as well. Former President Jimmy Carter is a good example of an unskilled president. He was elected thanks to his image of integrity but because he was not very skilled he wound up damaging the country.
I would like to add one more cause that leads a president to fail, which I believe is more crucial than the two above. A president fails when he has flaws in his personality. No matter how competent a president may be, he fails in the end if he has a bad disposition.
Americans learned that former president Richard Nixon had a crooked disposition only after he became the president. He declared, “I am not a crook!” but people who knew him recalled he was a crook after all.
Nixon was a talented student from a poor family and hated “the haves.” He never employed people who went to Ivy League universities as his advisors. He had an inferiority complex and he could not put up with the media outlets that criticized him. He trusted nobody so he used wiretaps to listen to conversations of his aides. His achievements were significant, such as normalization of diplomatic ties with China and ending the Vietnam War. But he failed in the end due to his disposition.
Back to the Korean president, what are the reasons for President Roh’s recent unreasonable moves? When employed in a responsible position, most ordinary people will try hard to do well in the position. The position of the president would require such an attitude and more effort than most. The president vows to abide by the Constitution before entering office because the law is the foundation of a country. But President Roh does not listen, whether the Constitutional Court rules his remarks unconstitutional or the National Election Commission sends a warning. He ridicules those judgments instead.
To shut down pressrooms in government offices is an odd idea. He was elected the representative of all Koreans and is responsible for the government. But his government wants to pull the curtain and show only what they want to show. The people cannot believe in such a government. The president ignores the law and ridicules democratic institutions. By the way, his words are embarrassingly vulgar. His bad choice of words harms the dignity of the country.
It does seem that progressive ideologies cause him to take these actions. Probably, his disposition is the reason.
A president must have the right disposition for a president. If he or she does not have the right disposition, he or she must try hard consciously. No matter how hard that may be, a president must have dignity and discipline. But President Roh does much worse than an ordinary person would do.
He talks as if he ridicules the whole world. He still has an inferiority complex even though he now is the president. He always blames the media. He talks of hatred toward the rich. There is a saying that one’s disposition defines one’s destiny. That would be O.K. if he was an ordinary citizen, but he is the president of the country, which makes it a grave problem.
At times, society reveals its true aspect through great people, but at other times society reveals itself through evil persons, which is more often the case in a democratic society. It is the people’s job to choose a great person or an evil person. If the society is evil, the majority of the people will sympathize with evil people. If the society is decent and transparent, its citizens will respond to such people. So each country chooses a leader that mirrors or suits the people.
Many say that policies are the most important factor when evaluating presidential candidates. We have been thinking that politicians’ ethics carry little importance. But there is one thing that is more important than policies. As a healthy tree bears healthy fruit, a person’s disposition is the most important in any field. The political arena is no exception. A good leader will make a country prosper, whereas a bad leader will make it evil. There is an old Chinese saying that a leader must cultivate his disposition and then manage his family and household well, before governing his country. This saying is still valid.
We need to probe the presidential hopefuls’ policies and check their assets. But what’s more important is to look into their dispositions. Disposition is all that there is, after all.
* The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk.