Politics: Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit, failed “Moral Leadership”

Blog Note:

The “No Confidence” censure debate in the Thai parliament is over-with the government coalition party holding the line and gave the government a “Victorious Win.”

Local press reports the Thai prime minister Abhisit, “smailing and relaxing” after the debate and getting the confidence vote-in double “Confidence.”

The debate centered on massive corruption and the crackdown that killed about 100 Red Shirts protesters-including the mayhem after the crackdown.

Yet, when Abhisit was in the opposition, and the then Taksin backed government, had a crackdown on a clearly violent Yellow Shirt, a women was killed. In parliament Abhsit said, quote, “Even the death of one protester and the government can not exists in power. Basic human rights were violated, Abhisit repeated over and over.

And in that role of the opposition, Abhisit, in another censure debate, blasted away at the government for massive corruption, said, quote: “There is not place for corruption in government as government have a higher standard than others and I will not wait for receipts to prove corruption, but will have a higher moral value.” 

Fast forward to today, in the position of the seat of power now, with Abhisit being the prime minister-where about 100 protesters have died by his crackdown and Thailand is now rated the most corrupt in history-what is Abhisit doing but “Smiling Victoriously.

What went wrong?

How did such a principled Abhisit, go from defending the death of one women, human rights and exposing corruption-to not taking responsibility of about 100 protesters death and defended corruption?

Worse, how did Abhisit came about to be the defendant of massive repression of basic human rights and freedom of expression?

The following may give a clue to the type and level Abhisit has developed as a human being-meaning, clearly, either Abhisit had always lied or he is suffering from a degerative decease.

It is often said, of the royalist, elite and military rulers of Thailand-that they are nothing but “Barbarians at the Gate.” “The good can do no wrong,” is the Thai barbarian cry of war against democracy, liberty and justice.

Apart from Western theory on morality, Matichon, a local newspaper, recently, wrote about morality and Buddhism. Where, Matichon quoted a scholar-that said Buddha had strongly warned against “False Truth.” Clearly, Buddha, never said “The good can do no wrong.”

Moral Leadership as Shaped by Human Evolution

12:45 PM Friday May 28, 2010

by Paul R. Lawrence 

(Editor’s note: This post is part of a six-week blog series on how leadership might look in the future. The conversations generated by these posts will help shape the agenda of a symposium on the topic in June 2010, hosted by HBS’s Nitin Nohria, Rakesh Khurana, and Scott Snook. This week’s focus: values.)

All animals survive guided by two innate drives, or ultimate motives. These are the drive to acquire essential resources and offspring, and the drive to defend themselves, and their property. Humans, as a species, have evolved to require two additional drives that are emerging in some other mammals but fully expressed only in humans

 — the drive to bond in trusting, long-term relationships and the drive to comprehend

— that is, to learn and create.

These two uniquely human drives have evolved by the Darwinian mechanisms of sex selection and social group selection, as well as the better-known mechanism of natural selection. (Sex selection occurs when mates are selected that enhance survival at the individual level; and group selection occurs to enhance survival at the group level.)

Good leaders hold these four drives in dynamic balance, weighing and balancing conflicting demands, relying on the human brain’s remarkable pre-frontal cortex, even as the relevant information (cultural memes, skills and personal learnings) are pulled into pre-frontal use from the neocortex as needed.

This brain can be considered a flexible, problem-solving mechanism capable of good or moral leadership — as well, unfortunately, too much bad, misguided and even evil leadership (think of Hitler).

The idea of morality is currently moving from being basically a religious or philosophic idea to being a scientific construct with important business and leadership implications. According to Darwin, “Any animal whatsoever, endowed with well-marked social instincts (bond) would inevitably acquire a moral sense of conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers (comprehend) had become as well or nearly as well developed as in man.”

After then citing the Golden Rule as “the foundation of all morality,” he continued, “Of all the difference between man and the lower animals, the moral sense of conscience is by far the most important.” This means that all humans have an innate conscience from which specific rules of engagement can be deduced logically from the four drives and the Golden Rule.

What kinds of behavior would serve to fulfill these four drives in the brains of others (your employees, for instance) without ignoring your own drives? I deduced the following tentative rules in my 2002 article, “The Biological Basis of Morality?” and these innate rules have been largely empirically confirmed by Hauser’s 2006 book, Moral Minds.

In respect to another’s drive to acquire:

•           Enhance the other’s capacity to acquire necessary resources.

In respect to another’s drive to bond:

•           Keep promises rather than breaking them.

•           Seek fair exchanges rather than cheating.

In respect to another’s drive to comprehend:

•           Tell truths rather than falsehoods.

•           Share useful information and insights rather than withholding them.

•           Respect other’s beliefs, even in disagreement, rather than ridiculing them.

In honor of another’s drive to defend:

•           Help protect the other, their loved ones and their property.

•           Detect and punish cheaters.

The four drives, when expressed as nouns rather than verbs, yield four core values: prosperity, peace (trust), knowledge, and justice (safety). Just as with the drives, the best leaders attend to all four values simultaneously for multiple stakeholders. This task is complex and difficult, but one for which our highly evolved brain is uniquely equipped.

As one example, Kenneth Iverson, the founding CEO of Nucor, built an organization that made significant profits, developed high levels of trust and cooperation, prompted organizational learning, and protected against corporate predators, while growing to become the largest steelmaker in the U.S. Such a leader who is able to keep all these values in balance may be said to possess wisdom.

By contrast, bad leaders emphasize one value (profits) over all others. Consider the recent example of Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, whose emphasis on the maximization of profits apparently came at the expense of safety, trust, and learning.

In my upcoming book, Driven to Lead: Good, Bad and Misguided Leadership, my argument around the construct of drives puts the focus on action, leadership action. Building this blog post’s argument around values focuses attention on where humans are trying to go — toward the greater realization of timeless values which can never be fully realized, but which can be roughly measured to judge progress or regression.

I believe an integrated theory of human behavior, based largely on insights buried in Darwin’s second epic book, The Descent of Man, can support a theory of leadership that is both testable and helps us do a better job of predicting events and outcomes.

(Editor’s note: This post is part of a six-week blog series on how leadership might look in the future.The conversations generated by these posts will help shape the agenda of a symposium on the topic in June 2010, hosted by HBS’s Nitin Nohria, kkesh Khurana, and Scott Snook. This week’s focus: values.)

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