Are there great personalities who stitched the threads of history? Or are these leaders merely instruments of buried social forces, the weight of which determines the future?
This question—whether the leadership of a handful of women or men is capable of changing history—has confronted historians in their quest to determine how our destiny is defined. His reflection is a reference point when thinking about Chile’s future at this constitutional crossroads.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Thomas Carlyle ruled that world history is nothing more than the biographies of great men (and women). In contrast, Karl Marx established a deterministic conception of history, where the future is predetermined or at least limited by the legacy that carries our circumstances.
There is also luck and randomness between the weight of leadership and the determination of historical processes that affect our lives. Stefan Zweig illustrates their role in humanity’s stellar moments, for example, by describing the fall of the Byzantine Empire into an unfathomable negligence, when the Ottomans found the Kerkaporta open, an access that allowed them to cross and transform the impenetrable walls of Constantinople. for our days. Days in Istanbul. Or how Napoleon fell at Waterloo because of a series of errors in his communications with General Grouchy.
Leadership, Henry Kissinger’s latest and most recent book, examines the lives of six extraordinary leaders whom the nearly centenarian author knew personally. Kissinger breaks down his distinctive strategies as a statesman. For example, Konrad Adenauer’s “strategy of modesty”, Charles de Gaulle’s “strategy of desire”, Lee Kuan Yew’s “strategy of excellence” or Margaret Thatcher’s “strategy of prestige”. All great personalities who may have changed the fate of history through their leadership.
If the Russian Revolution had lacked Lenin’s leadership, our days would have been different. If there was no Stalin in the Soviet Empire or if Hitler had not emerged in the war between Germany. But Hitler’s leadership was a product of the collapse of the Weimar Republic. And Stalin’s was the concentration of Soviet power. And the profound impact of Churchill and de Gaulle’s extraordinary leadership shaped the crisis of World War II.
It is precisely in moments of crisis and transition when individual leaders can define history. It is in those moments of profound intensity, capable of defining millions of lives, that the gravity of extraordinary leadership can change the destiny of nations.
Kissinger suggests that true men (or women) of the state have two basic functions under these circumstances. First, save your society by managing your circumstances instead of being overwhelmed by them. and second, to temper visions of the future with a sense of limitation and realism. Churchill warned that heads of state are not called upon to answer simple questions and gave Meridian advice to prepare: Know history, for it will hold all the secrets to leading a nation.
At multiple 62%, it was not personal leadership, as identified by Carlyle, that marked our future. Rather, it was the nation’s social forces, burdened by our heritage and history, that denied Chile a destination it did not want to go to. now, The big question is whether there is a leadership that, perhaps with some luck, will be able to determine Chile’s course and take action. And make our future the history of those remarkable men or women that we so desperately lack.
* The author is a Civil Engineer from UC and an MBA/MPA from Harvard University.