Having an eye for effective leadership

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Having an eye for effective leadership


Every morning I am afraid to look at my face in the mirror. Increasingly thinning hair is a concern, but the dull eyes are my greatest fear. If my eyes were as dull as they are today when I was in my 20s, I wouldn’t have been able to date anyone or pass a job interview.

Mencius said that you can judge a person by his eyes - they cannot hide his true nature. When you are in the right state of mind, eyes are bright and clear. An evil, ill-intentioned person, however, has dull eyes.

It would be easy if eyes told you what was going on inside the mind, but you can never understand one’s true character unless you deal with the person over a period of time. You may fall in love at first site, only to be disappointed after spending time together. A few days ago, I told a friend who operates his own business, “I envy you as you can hire people you like and pay them to work for you.” But he said he has his share of worries too. Being a manager is not so easy, and it is a nearly impossible task to pick the right person for a given job.

With the legislative and presidential elections approaching, both the ruling and opposition parties are pursuing leadership overhauls. They want to find fresh, competent and clean leaders to break away from the old vices. Various ideas such as an audition or survival-elimination system have been considered. An open primary through social networking services has also been discussed. It increasingly sounds like a beauty pageant.

The Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, who was good at managing people, liked to say that it was never easy to employ people, but the success of politics depended on it. He stood by the principle that a man should be employed based on his strengths and not be excluded because of his weaknesses.

When U.S. President Abraham Lincoln appointed Ulysses Grant as the commander of the Union Army, he was not deterred by rumors that Grant drank in excess. The decision was solely based on the verified strengths that Grant could win battles. When you look for a person without a flaw, you may be left with average, mediocre leaders. The true talents can be found in those who are praised by half the people but criticized by the rest.

If we expect a leader to make wise choices, we need to have selective eyes to choose the right leader. I am worried whether my dull eyes are up for the task.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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