[Viewpoint]A recipe for success

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[Viewpoint]A recipe for success

The Philadelphia Orchestra was the first Western musical ensemble to perform in China. Thanks to the friendly atmosphere created by “Ping-Pong diplomacy,” the orchestra slipped through the Bamboo Curtain in 1973.

When the orchestra’s principal conductor and musical director Eugene Ormandy visited a concert hall with the members of the group, a Chinese orchestra was practicing there, playing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The performance was less than impressive.

After the first movement, the Chinese conductor asked Maestro Ormandy to give the orchestra some advice. Once Ormandy took the baton, an amazing thing happened. The playing suddenly improved. The Chinese musicians themselves were surprised at their performance. The members of the Philadelphia Orchestra were also speechless. The true value of the great maestro was reconfirmed, and the members of the orchestra felt proud that they were playing under his direction.

This is what leadership does. It is the magic that awakens the sleeping talents of ordinary musicians with the wave of a baton. Having been painfully disappointed by a leader we put great confidence in, we are desperate for such inspiration.

Our current lack is even more painful because we have witnessed the power of leadership in the past. Kim Gyeong-mun led the National Baseball Team to win gold in the 2008 Olympics, defeating many formidable teams. Guus Hiddink led the national soccer team to the semifinal round of the 2002 World Cup, despite the team’s chronically indecisive shooting. These feats would not have been possible without the leadership of those two managers.

Just like any magic trick, the recipe for magical leadership isn’t particularly special once you figure it out. It takes a serving of potential and two servings of confidence. If there is no potential at all, even the greatest leadership cannot help. A duck is still a duck, even if it has an ostrich teacher. Confidence is a vector, a force of action with a direction. If the members of the Chinese orchestra did not trust Ormandy, they would not have followed his direction faithfully. Two servings of confidence are needed because it has to flow two ways. When the players trust the coach and the coach has full confidence in the players, the team can be victorious.

Now, it is time to put our ingredients on the cutting board. We know we have enough potential. Although the volume of its voice has been tempered a bit, the government still says it has sufficient foreign currency reserves. It is 27 times what we had at the time of the 1997 financial crisis, and the sixth largest in the world. Corporate and financial health is far stronger now. The International Monetary Fund confirmed that the situation here is different from a decade ago. All we need to do is to add some trust.

But here’s the problem. The bottle of confidence is cracked, and it has been open for so long that it has lost its flavor. Earlier this year, the presidential transition committee had a strong flavor of confidence. Of course, it did not suit the tastes of some people, but the new administration certainly seemed ready to clear the plates of the last five years and prepare a completely new menu with fresh dishes. However, even before the table was set, the bottle broke. Except for the removal of problem utility poles, the Lee administration has put nothing on the table.

The roots of the confidence crisis can be found there. When ordinary people complained about the rich, Gangnam-based, Korea University-alumni officials, the bottle of confidence began to crack. If we had mended the crack and kept the bottle closed, the flavor of confidence wouldn’t have been completely lost. The citizens wouldn’t have lit candles of protest or considered Lee’s tax cuts and easing of regulations as favors to the rich. The people would have applauded the 100 tasks announced by the government, and the Korean economy, which is said to have solid fundamentals, wouldn’t have fallen into a quagmire.

The president says a crisis is an opportunity. In fact, this premise applies to the president himself. The current crisis is the best chance for him to regain lost confidence. If he wants to make the best of the situation, he needs to go back to the beginning. He needs to create a bipartisan cabinet by seeking help from people other than those in his Rolodex. Empty promises will only hurt him further.

Chinese poet Du Fu said if you want to capture the horseman, you should shoot the horse, and if you want to root out bandits, you should get the leader. If you want to win confidence, you need to get rid of the reason for the loss of confidence. Du Fu also said if you are going to shoot an arrow, use the strongest bow, and if you are going to use a spear, choose the longest one. This is how we need to rescue the market.

*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Hoon-beom
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