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The leadership challenge

LONDON EYE - Stephen Lillie (The Philippine Star) - November 8, 2012 - 12:00am

Spend any time in a bookstore and it is impossible not to notice the huge number of books on leadership. Their popularity says something about the importance attached to leadership in the modern world. But it also reflects that leadership is more diffuse than it used to be. It‘s natural when thinking of leaders from history to think of politicians or generals. However, while politicians are a very important source of leadership, our world has been shaped by a much wider array of people.

In the UK, great scientists such as Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin changed the way we thought about the universe and our part in it. Isambard Kingdom Brunel‘s infrastructure transformed travel in the 19th century, whereas the invention of the internet in the 20th by Tim Berners-Lee brought the world to everyone‘s laptop. John Maynard Keynes transformed the way we think about the role of government in a market economy. Writers such a William Shakespeare and George Orwell prompted people to think about life and politics. JK Rowling has recently achieved the seemingly impossible by getting children, at least for a little while, to put away the DVDs and computer games in favor of reading. And the intellectual and spiritual leadership of Jose Rizal and Pope John Paul II helped set countries free.

Leadership isn’t the same thing as short term popularity. The political views of Winston Churchill had little popular support in the 1930s. But he was brought back to power to lead Britain through the darkest hours of World War II only to lose a general election before the war ended. He is however acknowledged as one of our greatest ever leaders.  Leadership is a tough business.

The 21st century is making ever greater demands of our leaders.  We need a new generation of ideas to create sustainable and low carbon growth, bolster democracy and human rights, a rules-based global system and reduce poverty and inequality.  But one of the great strengths of democracies is that they are best able to draw upon the skills and leadership of a large number of people as they encourage meritocracy, social mobility, accountability, consultation, delegation and devolution of powers.

Helping identify the future generations of leaders in the Philippines is one of the favorite parts of my job as Ambassador.  The British Govern-ment’s Chevening Scholarships program provides postgraduate study opportunities in the UK for potential future leaders from around the world. Named after Chevening House, the official Residence of the British Foreign Secretary, the scholarships are not only for diplomats. From business to law, life sciences to politics, we seek out and support some of the Philippines’ brightest and best, give them a year in the UK and then expect them to come back and make a positive difference to the development of their country. Academic excellence is not enough. A Chevening Scholar is someone who has a vision, plan and the desire to be a leader.  We are looking now for candidates for 2013/14.

Leadership isn’t for everyone. But if you think you have what it takes, go ahead and apply.  Dare to dream. Dare to make your country and our world a better place.

(Stephen Lillie is British Ambassador to the Philippines)

A CHEVENING SCHOLAR BRITISH AMBASSADOR BRITISH GOVERN CHEVENING HOUSE CHEVENING SCHOLARSHIPS ISAAC NEWTON AND CHARLES DARWIN ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES JOSE RIZAL AND POPE JOHN PAUL LEADERSHIP RESIDENCE OF THE BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY
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