Flat White

Leadership delegated is leadership lost

13 May 2022

9:00 AM

13 May 2022

9:00 AM

Is anyone else old enough to remember when any corporate, political, or education leader, said something memorable? Something that left you with a permanent memory that guided you into the future?

I have clarity on all three.

Corporate: Sir Arvi Parbo AC (1926 – 2019) said, ‘Australia needs less compliance and more performance.’

The corporate world has copped out by delegating leadership to the various industrial organisations, whether they be Chambers of Commerce, Chambers of Minerals and Energy, or the doctors with their Australian Medical Association and all the associated industry lobby groups.These so-called ‘lobby organisations’, instead of training thousands of chief executives or members on how to effectively stand up and speak for their respective industries, have taken it upon themselves to ‘speak for the industry’. We see bureaucrats with ‘no skin in the game’ removing from paid executives the responsibility that is expected of them by those who trust them with their savings.

Political: Sir Charles Court AK KCMG OBE (former Premier of Western Australia 1972 – 1982) said, ‘The miner, the industrialist, the trader, the financier, and the banker, if they play their role correctly, will do more to achieve world understanding and peace in a generation than the politicians and diplomats could do in a hundred years. Why? Because they are closer to reality, closer to their opposite numbers, and closer to the community in the countries where they operate. In other words, they have more to do with real people than with institutions.’

Education: Professor F.A. Hayek (1899 – 1992), in the closing paragraph of his paper The Intellectuals and Socialism said, ‘We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage.’

So, what went wrong about 20 years ago? The corporate world came under the spell of ‘Woke-political correctness’ with corporate public relations departments refusing to allow company chairmen or chief executives to write their own media releases or their own introductory comments to Annual Reports.

This role was delegated, in the interests of caution, with the result that leadership has now vanished.

Who reads the Chairman’s or the Chief Executive’s addresses in Annual Reports anymore?

Politically, principles were thrown out the window in the frantic pursuit of votes and popularism.

These days, there is little concept of, ‘What is the correct and legitimate role of government?’ Instead we find that ‘anything goes’ as long as they can see a few votes in it.

The massive build-up of debt, resulting from this vote-seeking has shifted the financial burden to future generations. Political responsibility has been delegated with a note pinned to the unborn, ‘Welcome to the world, the debt is yours…’

On the bigger picture, national leaders around the world, particularly in the so-called ‘West’, have delegated leadership to the bureaucratically driven United Nations, Nato and G20 organisations.

These organisations are run by bureaucrats with absolutely ‘no skin in the game’.

Could this explain why the West passively watched the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine on their TV screens each night for a whole month before slow-motion political leadership stepped forward with assistance packages? We can only hope that this is not a case of, ‘too little and too late’.

The individual voluntary action of people, families, and private organisations put to shame the belated efforts of our political leaders.

And so, on to education!

Where do I start?

It would seem our educational institutions have come under the spell of Antonio Gramsci, and his successful Long March Through the Institutions.

Control and responsibility for our valuable institutions have been delegated for such a lengthy period that, slowly but surely, it manifested stupefying outcomes. It has taken something disruptive like the Covid pandemic to alert parents to the educational content being fed to their children. Alarm bells are ringing so loudly that parent groups around the world are beginning to take action and call for the resignations for those responsible for assembling Woke school’s syllabuses.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Peggy Noonan recounts how in San Francisco three members of the Board of Education, including the Board President and Vice-President, were resoundingly voted out in the recent school-board recall election.

Parents vented their frustration at the board’s focus on issues of Woke antiracism and oppression that came to light during the pandemic when kids were out of school. Instead of working towards getting children back into classrooms, they worried about changing ‘problematic’ school names, making plans to paint over ‘racist’ historical murals, and floated the idea of using lotteries instead of test results to determine entry into the state’s top academic schools.

As Noonan makes clear, the board was so detached from the views of ‘normal’ people that they were shocked at the backlash from parents who saw their actions as a form of progressive vandalism that ‘cleverly avoided their central responsibility: to open the schools’. The result was an uprising, with over 70 per cent of voters supporting the removal of board members from their positions.

Arthur Milikh, writing in National Affair (No. 42 – Winter 2020), talks of American University reforms designed to encourage higher education to serve the nation and fulfil the purpose of universities:

Addicted as they are to federal funding, the administrators of our flagship universities may become more obliging, while mid-tier schools, having enriched themselves for too long from student loans, will close their doors.

If large parts of the current system collapse, donors can regenerate colleges in new forms. From the ashes, the best faculty could be plucked to teach in new institutions devoted to liberal education.

Hillsdale College, for example, has raised nearly USD$ 1.3 billion over the past 20 years, entirely from private funds, and it does not accept federal student aid. It is likely that such private funding will be found to buy bankrupted colleges in order to make them anew.

The purpose of such proposals is not punitive. It is simple sense, Universities that spread poisonous doctrines no longer believe in the purpose of the university. While it is their right to disagree with this purpose, they should not be the beneficiaries of public funds. No society should be expected to subsidize its own corrosion.

Leadership cannot be delegated.

The noted Austrian Economist Ludwig von Mises (1881 – 1973) clearly states as much in his penultimate paragraph of his masterpiece Socialism:

Society lives and acts only in individuals: it is nothing more than a certain attitude on their part. Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.

It would appear that whilst tasks may be delegated; we are unable to successfully delegate personal responsibility and leadership to others. It is up to each and every one of us.

Ron Manners AO is the Executive Chairman of Mannwest Group and the founder and Chairman of the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation.

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