A Mandela Moment in the United States

Joseph gave a talk to state administrators from the People’s Republic of China at the Duke Center for International Development on the Wednesday following the election.  Here is an excerpt of his remarks. For the full text, please go to A Mandela Moment in the United States at Duke Today.

This is a good time to think about, and talk about, leadership. I want thus to suggest at the outset reasons why conversations like this should be taking place not only in this room, but throughout the universities and living rooms across the world….

Within the next few years, we will see a generational transfer of leadership as many in the present generation (baby boomers) will retire and be replaced by members of the next generation (so-called generation Xers). We have seen the impact of the new leadership not just in the election of Barack Obama, but we have seen it also in the young people who played a major leadership role in making this happen. 

Hardly a day goes by when we are not reminded that someone respected and revered has been found guilty of violating the public trust. A new paradigm of leadership is emerging in which we give as much attention to moral intelligence as we now do to emotional intelligence.

In South Africa, they called yesterday a “Mandela moment.” It was not just the long lines and the long wait at the voting places that reminded us of South Africa in 1994. It was not just the magnitude of the moment that spoke so loudly about the birth of a new America. It was really the birth of a new paradigm of leadership; a reaffirmation of many of the qualities that made Mandela so widely revered and respected around the world.

So the question that all of us who think deeply and care deeply about leadership should be asking on the day after the euphoria of November 4, 2008 is “What are the qualities we should be looking for in electing or elevating people to positions of leadership?” 

For the full text, go to A Mandela Moment in the United States at Duke Today