Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The EU and leadership - more emerging insights

One of my purposes in coming to MUDEC was to have the opportunity to explore the ideas behind, and the current status of, the EU. I have to admit, I think I represent the more or less typical citizen of the U.S.A. who knew very little about the EU before preparing to come to Luxembourg. I've grown to appreciate it more each day I've been here. That's not to say that it is a flawless system (I doubt that any government will ever achieve this), but it certainly has merit. The greatest merit I see is the way it reflects much about the newest theories on leadership.

This week's discussion in the "Global Leadership" seminiar was based on a comparison of the EU and Jean Lipman-Blumen's "Connective Leadership" theory. We looked at the core ideas and questions and decided that, for the most part, the concept and delivery of the EU is very synchronous with these ideas. In connective leadership, leading is a process of bringing the right people to the table, asking for everyone's best contribution and perseverance. In this type of leadership, the leader does not presume to have the answers nor all the skills to address any particular question. Instead, the leader's role is to find the resources and resource people, convince them that their contributions are needed, and engage disparate voices in the pursuit of a mutually beneficial outcome. The EU is precisely the same thing. The EU follows centuries of conflict among its member nations, yet, it is committed to advancing EUROPEAN interests through appropriate consultation and following the dictum of "subsidiarity," which is pushing every issue to those people and systems most able to resolve it. Leadership in the EU is not easy. It includes conflict. It is cumbersome and adaptive. But, it attempts to get the job done for the greater good of all.

There are many details about the EU that I still only vaguely grasp. I had the great fortune of sharing dinner on Monday night with one of MUDEC's visiting professors from Belgium - Mr. Guy VANHAEVERBEKE. Guy is a very colorful person; he reminded me of the image I have of great diplomats from Europe during the 20th century. The primary difference is that Guy has been working for the EU since 1958, patiently negotiating systems to bring about positive change. It was wonderful hearing Guy's stories and it led me to ask when he was going to write his memoirs. He humbly said he didn't have time for that...

As I was preparing to go to bed last night, I was watching a CNN interview with the French Foreign Minister about the recent unrest and riots in France. The Foreign Minister accepted in candor that life shouldn't be like it has been for the families and young people who have been protesting. He also went on to say that the French government is taking this opportunity to study and to resolve the discontent felt so deeply by many. He also proposed that the journey was a two-way struggle with the government and people working together to make a better life for all French citizens. Ironically, he closed the interview by paraphrasing John F. Kennedy's famous inaugural remark, "Ask not what France can do for you but what you can do for France." While such a quote may seem odd in the context of modern times, it represents the core of democracy in France and in the U.S.A. We have become so used to expecting the government to make us happy and satisfied, yet what do we contribute to our communities and to governance to make sure we are all progressing toward better lives? As a citizen of the U.S.A., I'm embarassed that I've allowed what should be perceived as responsibilities of citizenship - voting, commmunity involvement, paying my taxes - to be turned into burdens of having to go to the polls, reading the paper, and especially "tax relief." Note to self - while these investments in the quality of our common life are not always easy, they are a debt I owe to those who made liberty and opportunity available to me and they are an investment in the quality of life for future generations.


Steve said...


As soon as I saw the picks from your most recent trip I shouted out to Devin "I want to go to Europe". My memories from when I was 8 don't quite cut it. Things are going well here. Last week it was 60 degrees and today the high was in the mid 20's. It snowed last night. Needless to say, I'm not quite ready for this type of weather. Las Vegas will be a welcome relief from the weather. We fly out on Friday night at 8 PM and get into Vegas at 10 PM local time. So while you're off exploring the European countryside, Devin and I will taking the most american of trips. But if you can't tell, I'm really excited. And for once, I think Devin packed less than I did. Shocking I know. Sorry my comments on the blog have been lacking but it's been kinda hectic up here. We'll fill you in on the trip when we get back. Oh, and I particularly liked how happy you were to find a Starbucks. Ahhhh, you've gotta love the USA.

Denny Roberts said...

I can hardly wait to see how the Vegas weekend went. Diane and I talked last night and she reported that all is going well and that you're having a great time.

I can't remember when your family was placed in Europe. I know that Bonn, Germany, used to have a large U.S.A. base. Is that where you were or somewhere else? I've found that German towns can be so different from the quaint Bavarian look to the sleek and modern of Berlin.

I appreciate your sticking with the blog and I appreciate your comments!