In the most extreme cases, as we can unhappily see every day in the news, "why" can lead to violence, subjugation, and hatred that can last for decades, generations, eons, forever... last so long that the participants can no longer remember the why. Sometimes the why is a misreading of religious beliefs. Sometimes the why is a grab for land, power and the wealth that power brings. But in a more prosaic setting, the why can simply represent a person who feels powerless and unappreciated, or is unhappy with life and envious of someone else. People are such complicated creatures. Perhaps that is why dogs are universally loved.
The course also attempted to teach management and leadership skills. It was this part of the course with which I took greatest issue. I do not believe leadership can be easily taught, unless perhaps from a very early age. One may desire the trappings of leadership, including having a loud voice and big presence, and whatever percs come with the job, but still be clueless when it comes to successfully getting people to follow. Others can lead effortlessly. I think they are pretty much born to it, although there are certainly exceptions.
Along this vein (yes, I am going to segue into a book) I have been reading Five Days In London: May 1940 by historian John Lukacs. May 24 to May 28, 1940 were perhaps the darkest and most crucial days of World War II. They were undoubtedly the most decisive days of the war upon which not only the fate and future of Britain, Europe and the world teetered, but the course of the 20th century itself.
Hitler was winning the war; Churchill was new to the job, having risen to the office of Prime Minister on May 10 following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain. Out of the gate he did not exactly inspire confidence. Many people in his own party thought Churchill to be impetuous and hot-headed; those in the opposing party reviled him. And although a child of the aristocracy, born to wealth and privilege, he could act in a way which made him appear coarse to his peers.
During those urgent five days in May 1940, Churchill's War Cabinet debated whether to negotiate with Hitler or continue to fight on, despite the gloomy outlook. Hitler was never closer to achieving his goals than during the hours of those days. And his goals were nothing less than mastery over all of Europe and the annihilation of any group he considered unworthy of existence. Luckily, he was up against Churchill who never vacillated in his determination that Britain would never give up, regardless of a defeat at Dunkirk, regardless of the fall of Calais.
There are always debates over who should be given the distinction of "Most Important Personage" of an age. At the end of the year in 1999, Charles Krauthammer wrote: "It is just a parlor game, but since it only plays once every hundred years, it is hard to resist. Person of the Century? Time magazine offered Albert Einstein, an interesting and solid choice. Unfortunately, it is wrong. The only possible answer is Winston Churchill." Krauthammer makes the argument that without Churchill being in the right place at the right time, Britain would have capitulated. It is hard to argue with his reasoning. And equally hard to dispute that we would be looking at the world through a much different prism today without him.
On June 4, 1940 Churchill spoke to the House of Commons:
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender....Yeah. I'd follow that leader. He knew and understood his "why." He was passionate about his why and the why was the source of his strength.
Difficult people? I would say that Churchill went toe to toe with the worst. Leadership? He didn't need a "how to" manual. And as for conflict resolution, it was a long, hard road but he helped make it happen. I don't know if we grow that type of leader anymore. Perhaps he or she is out there waiting to be tested. Waiting for the right place and right time. Perhaps there is another giant in the wings, ready for the exact moment when the world needs one. Perhaps the time is now. We can only hope.