Leonard Zwelling

This blog focuses recurrently on the issue of leadership. From Trump to DePinho to Pisters, I have made no secret of my poor regard of egocentric autocrats who neglect the very people they are supposed to be leading. These are men who cannot focus on the job they were lucky enough to get. And even when they have vision and will, their heavy-handed, ham-fisted manner undermined whatever good will they may have brought to the job.

If leadership is anything it is vision and will—the focus on where you are going and the fortitude to get there. But there is a third element to great leadership—grace, simple elegance, refined movement, courteous good will. As rare as good leadership is, great leadership is an even rarer commodity. Now try to do it for 70 years.

The late monarch of Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth II, was a great leader and probably one the likes of which we shall not see again for some time. Most of us know no other British monarch. She has been on the throne since her twenties through numerous United States Presidents and British Prime Ministers. Through it all, the death of Diana, the foolish behavior of her children, she has been rock solid, steadfast, faithful to the crown, and above all graceful in her demeanor. She may well prove to be the most significant royal leader of modern times in any country. She was a beacon of permanence in a fast-changing world.

We live in a world of clumsy leaders with childlike habits and short-sightedness. Mr. Trump had no idea what he was doing. He was successful when the economy thrived and then overwhelmed by Covid. Mr. Biden is clearly inept. He can barely put two sentences together and despite some reasonable legislative accomplishments thanks to Mr. Trump’s completely messing up the Georgia Senate races, the vast majority of Democrats want a different choice in 2024. Me, too. On both sides. The country cannot survive another Biden-Trump match-up. Give someone else a chance.

Closer to home, both the DePinho and Pisters presidencies have been dreadful for the institution. Dr. DePinho wanted to turn MD Anderson into a drug company. At least he had a focus. Dr. Pisters just wants everyone to be and act the same. He has no vision.

It is unlikely that King Charles III will be able to muster the support of his people like his mother before him. In fact, he doesn’t have to. But he does need to strive for grace, a commodity he has shown little of in the run up to his assumption of the throne. But in the end, the British monarch is a symbol and Queen Elizabeth II was a symbol of the grace, stiff upper lip, and strength that is the epitome of Great Britain.

MD Anderson is also the epitome of greatness. Its great leaders have realized the primary importance of the faculty to maintaining the greatness of the institution and also realized the leader’s job was to make that of the faculty easier. Current leadership has not come to this realization. It views its job not as leading, but as managing—resourcing and mentoring. It is poor at both.

The latest generation of leaders believes there is no problem that lawyers and computers cannot fix. That generation is wrong. True vision and will along with unrivaled grace are what constitutes great leadership. Queen Elizabeth II showed the way. Her example is there to follow. Let’s see who will.

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