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Slade Gorton
Political leader

Slade Gorton

A former U.S. Senator and Washington State Attorney General, Slade Gorton served on the 9/11 Commission.

The realistic leader

Q: This week's nuclear summit presents one of those difficult leadership challenge: focusing attention and resources on a low-probability problem that would be disastrous if it occurred. Global warming, 100-year floods, financial meltdowns are other examples. How can a leader fight the natural tendency among followers to put off dealing with what seem like such abstract and complicated threats?

The leader leads, and that leadership requires a high degree of discrimination. Is the threat societal or economic or does it arise from the natural order? What are the costs in resources and human disruption of insuring against it? If those economic costs are significant, what are their likely effects on economic growth and on other desirable societal priorities? Is planning to deal with the results of such a catastrophe less expensive than attempted prevention? And is it likely that a free country will be willing to make major present sacrifices against an uncertain and distant future?

The true leader sees better "through a glass darkly" than do most of his or her constituents, but also genuinely recognizes the limits that bind the leader in a free society and dares as much as possible -- but not more than in possible.

By Slade Gorton

 |  April 13, 2010; 5:58 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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