THIS ELUSIVE QUALITY WE CALL LEADERSHIP
I first read J.K. Galbraith when I attended university at the too young age of 16.
No one should go to university that young.
True, I had the necessary academic qualifications, but that was back in the days of military National Service in the UK (conscription), and many of my peers were 20 or more when they arrived, and not a few were older—and certainly looked older.
Being in harm’s way, while presiding over the decline of the British Empire as a young infantry officer, had that effect. Malaya, the Indonesian confrontation, Cyprus, Aden, Kenya—the trouble-spots were endless—and the casualties racked up. And then came Northern Ireland, which was to last for about 30 years. On several occasions, I was on the receiving end. It wasn’t fun.
Given that my university was Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, you might well wonder why so many British students attended. I think it was as simple as the fact that, at that time, Trinity was a little less expensive than Oxford or Cambridge—and a little easier to get into. However, it still had the cachet of having been established in the late sixteenth century when Elizabeth 1 was on the throne. She was the queen who defeated the Spanish Armada—or, at least got much of the credit for it. The weather was actually a major factor in the whole event; and the English were scarcely trivial opponents. If memory serves, they had smaller ships but superior canons.
My peers were a beer drinking, poker playing, lot; and they had seen the world—or enough of it to regard me, quite rightly, as a kid. Some were very bright, but mostly they wanted—not unreasonably—to forget.
It was hard to get a date, at first, against such competition—and there were few women at university back in the early Sixties; but, life being the way it is, I grew older, and luckier. A Trinity degree course is four years.
I became a great fan of Galbraith. I didn’t agree with all his ideas, but, generally speaking, he seemed to make a great deal of sense; and he wrote beautifully. I can forgive almost anyone if they write to Galbraith’s standard. The following is a marvelous quote on leadership.
"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership." -John Kenneth Galbraith
Galbraith bore more than a passing resemblance to my good friend, Bob Fulton. Both were fine looking men and aged particularly well. I never met J.K. Galbraith and—more is the pity—our paths never crossed. I miss Bob Fulton to this day.