I must recognize that the idea of being a great man always have been attractive for me. I hope that I will have some years to reach this aim yet. I was never wanted to be a great businessman, and probably, that is the reason why I am not running a large business now. The difference is very important. We usually think that a great businessman is a man that makes a lot of money however, a great man is a man that gets to give something to mankind after his death. Perhaps a little illusion of greatness produced in me an interest about science, technology and innovation during my youth.
I know that this confession is not politically correct. Political correctness forces us to say always that we want to be like everybody, but I would like that some politicians were politically correct too and they were abandoning politics in order to be like everybody and to dedicate their lives to their own businesses instead of saying that they actually are, however, they do not it.
One of the main problems linked to the search for greatness is to look at it in a platonic way. There is not an idea of greatness and if this was true the ideal of greatness never could be reached. Great men are not great due to themselves. They are not great due to their height, origin, home or land. They are great due to their work. They make a work that transcends their own existence being useful for the use and enjoyment of posterity. Mozart, Einstein, Picasso, Caesar, for instance, were great men in different fields of activity because of their work instead of the search of some idea of greatness.
Back to the business world, it is possible to be a great man being a great businessman. This can be true if the businessman builds something like a strong business organization that transcends his own existence. In the field of politics, Caesar was not a great man because he wanted to be a great ruler but because he built an empire that nobody has been able to replicate again after its destruction. Napoleon, for instance, tried to do it without success.
Once we have reached this point of the discussion, it is important to notice that greatness is not searched. Greatness is found. Many people want to be better than the rest, however, only a few ones are really.
The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset analyzed this fact and he noticed that great men are exemplary, and exemplariness is linked to some activity. People that want to be exemplary only without trying to highlight in a certain activity are not true exemplary men but false ones.
This is very important when we are talking about leadership. There is a common trend to analyze which ones must be the characteristics of a good leader, as if a leader could be manufactured. However, leaders cannot be manufactured because alone exemplariness cannot be manufactured. Exemplariness is born in a certain activity.
There are two ways to become a leader: through exemplariness that provides authority to be followed, and through the knowledge for building an effective organization that provides authority to coordinate the organization.
A person only can get the leadership if he highlights over the people in their activity of if he highlights in the techniques of executing the command. If we define a great leader from the results of the organization both ways drive to greatness, however, if we define a great leader as a person that creates an organization that transcends his own existence only the second one drives to greatness.
Although leadership cannot be manufactured, management techniques can be learned. Leaders cannot be manufactured, however managers can be, and some of these ones can become great businessmen or rulers.
For instance, Napoleon can be considered a great strategist although he cannot be considered a great ruler. Napoleon was a great military strategist however he could not rebuild the Roman Empire.
As a defense of Napoleon, we must recognize that great empires have been always built on the conquest of less advanced societies. The world around Caesar’s Rome was relatively less advanced than the world around Napoleon’s France. The cultural leap that Caesar’s Rome provided to the conquered countries implied a qualitative advance that Napoleon’s France could not provide to other European countries making the resulting empire more stable. Exemplariness depends on the people; however, greatness can depend on the environment too.
Here, I would analyze why Europe is not as easy to be built as USA. I have provided the key point: Greece, Portugal, and especially Italy and Spain, more populated, are not for the economic powers France and Germany like the tribes of American natives for the English Colonies. It would be an error to think that some kind of United States of Europe can be built in the USA way; however, I will let this matter for a new post.