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Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

Egypt needs a new leader

Question: Egypt's unfolding political crisis raises a broader question: Can an entrenched, powerful leader, one who has resisted change, successfully lead a country or an organization in a different direction if circumstances suddenly demand it? Or is it necessary to bring in new leadership?

No way can a leader lousy for 30 years become someone poised for greatness in the future.

Egypt needs a new leader. In fact, it's needed a new leader for the past, say, 28 years --after giving Mubarak the benefit of the doubt for two years after Sadat was assassinated. Now there's no doubt.

And no benefit to dragging the process out. He (and we) should know, as Shakespeare says: "When sorrows come, they come not as single spies in the night, but in battalions. One woe doth tread upon another."

What's critical in a revolutionary situation are the trends. Who's winning? Who's losing?

The street's winning. Mubarak's losing. The regime faces one woe treading upon another.

Granted, there's the risk of the dreadful Muslim Brotherhood, chaos for a while or another tin-horn dictatorship. The U.S., it's said, is about to lose a good friend--as if Mubarak's accepting $1.5 billion from us was an act of friendship towards us. Or like his accepting the Camp David Accords bringing peace between Israel and Egypt was a favor to us. (I had always surmised that ending war with Israel was in Egypt's interest.)

With all these dangers admitted, Egypt at least now has a commodity not evident for a very long time: Egypt now has hope for a better day.

Return to all panelist responses

By Ken Adelman

 |  February 1, 2011; 10:21 AM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership , Failures , Government leadership , Managing Crises , Political leadership , Presidential leadership , Wrong-Doing Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Strong leaders know when it's time to change | Next: Leadership: Part action, part perception


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While I agree with Adelan’s statement “The street’s winning. Mubarak’s losing” for the current situation in Egypt, this does not address the bigger question.

Mubarak’s reign as President of Egypt has been oppressive and coercive. He has shown few leadership skills, depending on his widespread power to control his country. While the past is generally a good indication of the future, it is not a perfect prediction. Mubarak has resisted change, however that does not ultimately mean he will continue to resist. It may be too late to respond to the Egyptian people’s desires, as they are now demanding a new President. The time of change for Mubarak has passed and the time for change in Egypt is here.

I believe an entrenched, powerful leader, who has historically resisted change can successfully lead a country in a different direction. If this leader responds to the new circumstance in a positive way, changing his old, out-dated system, it is possible new leadership would not be require. However, if the leader continues to refuse change, resulting in the demand of the people for new leadership, new leadership is the only answer. Unfortunately for Mubarak, his time as Egypt’s President has ended.

Posted by: andieobermeyer | February 4, 2011 2:36 PM
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One of the most telling characteristics of the leader is the capability to exercise non-coercive influence on followers. On this basis alone, Mubarak’s leadership capabilities are immediately called into question. Good leaders can motivate people to conform to a governmental structure by helping them to see that it is for their best interests. It is clear that the Egyptian people feel quite the opposite. They want Mubarak out because they do not feel that he is upholding the interests of the people. In other words, he has lost his credibility as a leader.

Mubarak maintains that he intends to complete the remainder of his term in office despite opposition. Myriads of people protest Mubarak’s continuing presence publicly. The Muslim Brotherhood has threatened to intervene. President Obama has put pressure on Mubarak to transition to a democratic form of government. However, neither the Egyptian people, nor the Muslim Brotherhood or the United States government possesses the power to legally deprive Mubarak the right to finish his term as President.

Another mark of a good leader is the skill of compromise. If the current President of Egypt plans to remain in power until the end of his term, perhaps some form of appeasement should be the course of action. Mubarak cannot peacefully remain in power until the end of his term unless he begins to make real progress toward a transition to a non-autocratic government.

Posted by: dorianhicks | February 4, 2011 12:21 PM
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Egyptians flooding the square crying for reform has drawn the world’s eyes upon them. The world listens to these protestors, and acknowledges the fact that this may be the time to promote democracy and peace in Egypt. It is necessary to bring in new leadership, by proving that 30 years President Mubarak has been in control of Egypt’s repressive government. Mubarak uses the threat of radical Islamic terrorists groups as taking control of Egypt if he steps down telling ABC news, “You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now.” He is right in a way, but, how can an authority argue that violating rights equals stability? It doesn’t.

Egypt needs political and social reform now, which puts a lot of pressure on the existing government. I love how Mr. Adelman states that “Egypt now has hope for a better day,” because although Mubarak was a friend to the U.S. government, a new democratic leader could be the same, if not a better, friend to the United States. The United States wants someone they trust in office, but how can the U.S. trust someone that is control of a repressive government? Mubarak needs to step down, and Egypt needs to have a temporary constitution for a year, during which, a new constitution will be drawn up with an election following the permanent constitution. The citizens of Egypt are fighting for their rights, it is necessary that they get a new leader to lead them in that direction.

Posted by: meghanerkel | February 4, 2011 11:37 AM
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When the circumstances include a people harboring distrust and animosity toward their leader, it is time to bring in the replacement. Mr. Adelman is absolutely right that “the street’s winning. Mubarak’s losing.” The fact that President Mubarak has allowed his approval to decay to such a degree is evidence enough that he lacks either the attention or ability to placate the cries of his followers. According to presidential biographer and Pulitzer Prize winner James MacGregor Burns, “For the study of leadership the crucial distinction is between the quest for individual recognition and self-advancement, regardless of its social and political consequences, and the quest for the kind of status and power that can be used to advance collective purposes that transcend the needs and ambitions of the individual.” It is clear that Egypt’s autocrat has dismissed the latter and, to his demise, focused too strongly on individual recognition and self-advancement. The act of resisting change—and overlooking the public’s interest—severely cripples the possibility that a man can successfully lead his country in some new direction. The people want change.

Posted by: calebbrown | February 4, 2011 11:03 AM
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