JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers, Director of Public Affairs Programs. On behalf of the Carnegie Council, I'd like to thank you all for joining us.
We are very pleased to have Joseph Nye as our speaker today. Professor Nye has spoken here before, and his presentations are always of great interest.
Please note that the transcripts from his earlier talks can be downloaded by visiting our Website www.carnegiecouncil.org.
This morning the subject of his discussion is leadership, which could not be more timely. His book The Powers to Lead will be available for you to purchase at the end of the hour today.
Although recent headlines tell about the breakdown and failure of political leadership in Washington, from the earliest of times, people have been critiquing their leaders and how they use their power. Yet finding the right person to lead a nation, guide an organization, or manage a company is not an easy task. This being an election year, finding the most qualified person to be the next commander-in-chief is fraught with concern.
While we may have trouble defining leadership, most of us intuitively believe it does matter. Today, with the information revolution transforming politics, organizations, and industry, new expertise is needed to take control. An individual who thrives in one environment may struggle in another, or vice versa. This being the case, you may ask, what skills are needed to lead and succeed in the 21st century?
In The Powers to Lead our guest writes with sparkling insight about what leadership really means and how it relates to power in both the political and business sense. Drawing on observations from history, as well as looking at individuals in the present, Professor Nye examines different approaches to leadership, as well as offering new perspectives on the morality of authority.
Our speaker is widely known for promoting the idea of soft power, based on persuasion and influence, as a counterpoint to hard power, based on coercion and force. In his previous books, he analyzed the use of these tools in both politics and diplomacy. Now, with his latest publication, Professor Nye has turned his attention to applying these concepts to leadership.
As the historical emphasis on hard power is becoming outdated and traditional hierarchies are being undermined, soft power that seeks to attract and aspire is becoming more desirable. Still, he argues, that doesn't mean that coercion should now take a backseat to persuasion. Instead, he says, a synthesis of the two is the most effective way to lead. In other words, if you combine hard and soft power skills in appropriate proportions that vary according to the situation, then you will have the smart power to lead.
As one of our country's most influential political scientists and astute political thinkers, Professor Nye understands the meaning of power and how it relates to leadership. Having served as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Deputy Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology, and Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, his talent and experience convinced him that to be successful one needs to combine both hard and soft power, but in a smart way.
With the world financial crisis upon us and two wars, the absence of leadership in our country at this time is stunning. As America loses faith in its leaders, whether it is the president, Wall Street financiers, or Corporate America, there couldn't be a better primer to arm ourselves with for the present and future, especially in a challenging and presidential-election year.
Please join me in welcoming a person who has the power to lead us in a discussion on this topic, the current University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, our speaker, Joe Nye.
Thank you for joining us.
JOSEPH NYE: I want to thank you for that generous introduction, Joanne, and say how nice it is to be back at the Carnegie Council. It's a wonderful organization. As I was just saying to Joel [Rosenthal], over the years it has kept a focus on the important ethical questions in international affairs, from a broad perspective, which is rare. It really is a unique institution, which is filling an extraordinarily important function. So it's a pleasure to be back here at the Council.
I also want to thank Joanne for that generous introduction, and particularly for not referring to me as Dr. Nye. I have always been sensitive about that. I have three sons, and when people would call the house, the boys would answer the phone and if somebody asked for Dr. Nye, they'd say, "Yes, but he's not the useful kind." [Laughter]
I want to talk to you about leadership, which, as Joanne said, is sort of the topic du jour. The thing I want to say is that if we think about the way we talk about leadership in the United States, it's somewhat odd. It's a truncated form of talking about leadership. We have a view in which we think of leadership as top-down, hard command, hard power. We rarely, if ever, talk about soft power.
As you know, power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes you want. You can do that three ways. You can do it through coercion—sticks; you can do it through payments—carrots; or you can do it through attraction—getting people to want what you want.
It's rare, how little we talk about that third dimension of power when we talk about leadership.
I was once talking to a congresswoman friend of mine and made that observation. She said, "You know, you're absolutely right. Soft power is essential, but it's a loser in American politics." Bill Clinton is quoted as saying at one point, "Americans would prefer someone who's strong and wrong to right and soft."
In any case, I want to talk about the deficiencies of the way we think about leadership and our need to adapt it. Obviously, that's relevant to the presidential campaign. But this little book that I wrote antedated the campaign. It's not a partisan or political tract. It's an effort to get Americans to think differently—and not just Americans; everyone—to think differently about leadership from the classical model.
I was teaching a course on this and I was looking for a book that was short and analytical and readable. I found a lot of books that were short and readable, but not at all analytical, and some books that were analytical, but totally unreadable. So I decided to write one of my own.
The moral of the story in the book is that we are prisoners of what I call the big-man theory of leadership, the view that somebody who is tall and strong and macho—he walks into the room and you say, "Boy, there's a leader." There is a little evidence for that. I don't know if you are aware that if you look at American chief executive officers, they are, on average, taller than most other American males. In fact, one sociologist has done a study that shows that an extra inch of height is worth about $800 of income per year for a male.
Obviously, that's a correlation, but we don't know the causation. The causation could be that because we think tall and powerful is "leaderly," we put people in those positions, but it may be spurious causation.
In fact, if you look at history, some of the people who have had the greatest impact on history have been a little over 5 feet tall. Of course, you think of Napoleon, Stalin, and Deng Xiaoping. So prima facie you would say there is a little problem with this big-man theory.
But the theory persists. Indeed, some people try to revive it by turning to sociobiology. They point out that if you look at the human genome, it's about 99 percent the same as the genome of chimpanzees. When you look at how chimpanzees are led in chimpanzee groups, the answer is always by an alpha male. So the view that an alpha male is natural, it's in our genes, has a certain resonance which some people think rescues the big-man theory.
There are at least two problems with that.
One is that when scientists have tried to identify a gene related to leadership, they can't find it. In the absence of identifying a gene, they have done tests comparing identical twins, who have the same genetic structure, with fraternal twins, who have half the same genetic structure. They find that the leadership positions that are attained can be explained about one-third by nature, but two-thirds by nurture. That sounds like a reasonable proposition.
But if you really want to knock this sociobiological explanation on the head—this argument that we are chimpanzees, and therefore we must be ruled by alpha males—you have to look at the case of the bonobos, which is a smaller version of chimpanzee that lives in the eastern Congo. The most interesting thing about the bonobos is that they are ruled by females. Half of you are shaking your heads like this and half like that. But it is a fact.
But it does argue that trying to turn to genes or sociobiology to explain leadership is inadequate. In fact, the new conventional wisdom is running the other way.
If you think about the Industrial Age, where you had hierarchies in the factory or in government, the idea of the leader as the tough man on top who issued commands down the chain of command made some sense. But if you think of an information age, in which we work in networks, in which it's essential to attract people to us, then it's better to think of the leader not just as the king of the mountain, but as the center of the circle. He or she has to draw people to want to work with her.
That has led a number of people to say maybe we have finally entered the era of women's leadership. Maybe we should replace the big-man theory of leadership with a big-woman theory of leadership. The argument here—and there is some empirical data that supports it—is that soft power is becoming more important in running organizations in a network world, and women are generally better at understanding soft power, for various cultural reasons. So there are some who say, "Finally, at last, we're entering the era of women's leadership." But I think we have to be careful about gender stereotypes, even when they are positive. If we start explaining things by gender stereotypes, we are still trapped in the old way of thinking.
What I argue in the book is that it's better, instead, to ask, what are the soft-power skills that a leader needs, and what are the hard-power skills, and how do they learn to combine them, whether they are male or female? Another way of putting that, in simpler terms, is, a lot more men are going to have to learn to think like women and a lot of women are going to have to think like men. What we need to do then is identify what the skills are that they need to develop to be effective leaders.
What I'm going to do for you is recap six skills that are outlined in the book. Three of them are what I call the most important soft-power skills, two are the most important hard-power skills, and the sixth is what I call contextual intelligence, or the ability to put the two together into smart strategies.
In terms of soft-power skills, I think probably the most important is emotional intelligence. You all know what IQ is. It's the ability to do well in the French school system of about 1890. You do math tests and spatial relations and so forth. When psychologists have studied this and asked, "How much does traditional IQ explain success in life?" the answer comes out at around 20 percent. So there is another 80 percent that is not accounted for by traditional IQ.
Part of that 80 percent—not all of it, but part of it—psychologists have called emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to master your emotions and to use them to reach out and attract others. It's extremely important. You probably have heard this famous story that when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was introduced to President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, Holmes, a crusty old Civil War veteran, was asked, "What did you think of the new president?"
Holmes said, "Second-class intellect, but first-class temperament"—in other words, "He has emotional intelligence."
Contrast that picture of Roosevelt with Richard Nixon. Nixon probably would have outscored FDR on most traditional IQ tests, but obviously had not mastered his own emotional demons and thought the way to relate to people was through an enemies list.
If you think about success, that ability to have emotional intelligence is probably the most crucial of the soft-power skills.
The second is the ability to have a vision, which means to be able to portray a picture of the future that attracts others to want to follow you. Vision can be abused. If your vision is unrealistic and grandiose, it can actually do damage, and you will quickly lose your followers when they find that you are taking them over a cliff. But the ability to portray a vision which attracts people and which makes sense is a great soft-power skill.
Ronald Reagan was good at this. Reagan was faulted on whether he knew all the details of this, that, or another policy. But in the ability to portray a picture, a vision, which really attracted others, he was extremely able and skillful as a leader with soft power.
The third of the key soft-power skills is communication. Obviously, the ability to communicate your vision is important. We usually think of communications as rhetoric, as oratory. Certainly that's important. If you think of the way Martin Luther King used the cadences and vocabulary of the African-American church to rally a broader community to a larger vision, that was a paragon of successful communication.
But it's important to realize that communication is not only verbal. In fact, again, scientific studies have shown that a good portion—maybe more than half—of human communications is nonverbal. Therefore, it's extremely important that your nonverbal communications coincide with or substitute for your verbal communications. The paragon here, I think, would be Mahatma Gandhi. I hesitate to say this with Shashi Tharoor here, an expert, to my left. But I must say that when I first saw a film of Gandhi giving a speech, I was astounded at what a poor speaker he was. Here's one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, and he was no Martin Luther King, though Martin Luther King learned from him, in the substance of what he was doing.
But Gandhi was a master at nonverbal communication. If you compare pictures of Gandhi coming back from the Inns of Court dressed in his British suit and tie and so forth with Gandhi the leader of the 1920s and 1930s dressed as a peasant, organizing the Salt March to the sea—it took weeks to get to the sea, so that the tension could build up before he actually broke the law by making salt from the sea—this was mastery in terms of nonverbal communication.
So communications verbal and nonverbal are crucial soft-power skills.
What about hard-power skills? It seems to me there are two that are dominant there.
One is organization. Organization means the ability to manage information flows and reward systems. Very often there is the feeling, "Oh, organization, how tedious. That's management, not leadership."
Indeed, the Harvard Business School 30 years ago developed this distinction between managers and leaders. Managers were just routineers, regular types. Leaders—these were the stellar types.
In fact, we need to overcome that. We need to think of leaders as managers. The leader who doesn't manage can create quite disastrous consequences.
One way to think about this is to compare the two Bush presidencies. Bush 41 did not have much vision, by his own admission, but was an excellent manager, an excellent organizer. He had Brent Scowcroft make sure that the trains of information that came into him from all over made him knowledgeable about the center of the process, everything that was going on.
Bush 43—and you will never find two presidents more genetically closely related than these two—Bush 43, even though he had a Harvard MBA, learned the wrong thing, I think, at Harvard. He concluded that what the leader needed, in his words, is to proclaim a vision, pick a good group of subordinates, and then to delegate to them. But if your vision is grandiose and the team that you pick is internally divided and you don't monitor the organization of the delegation, the results could be quite disastrous.
So if you look at these two presidents—again, genetically the same, half at least—I think 41 had one of the best foreign policies that we have seen in the last 50 years and 43 had one of the worst. I would attribute it to that degree of organizational skill, in part.
The other key hard-power skill is what I call Machiavellian political skills. That means the ability to size up the weaknesses, strengths, the likes and the dislikes of other people and to put together minimum winning coalitions to get things done. Sometimes people say, "But isn't that the politics of fear? Isn't that just bullying?" The answer is, sometimes politics of fear are crucial, and bullying may play a role. But bullying for its own sake, no. That's usually counterproductive. What's important is what the psychologist Rod Kramer at Stanford Business School calls "bullies with a vision."
Probably the paragon case here would be Hyman Rickover, the Father of the Nuclear Navy. If you think of Admiral Rickover and you don't know anything about him—"admiral," you think of some tall warrior, swashbuckling, standing on the prow of a battleship or something. Actually, Rickover was a very small man, near the bottom of his class in Annapolis. But he had two extraordinarily important Machiavellian political skills. One, he knew how to work the Congress around the bureaucracy to get resources. The second was that he set exacting standards. He was going to develop a nuclear navy accident-free, and he did. He did it by essentially bullying young people to exacting standards.
But the interesting thing is, a lot of young naval officers wanted to go to work for Rickover, not because he was nice to work for, but because they believed in the vision and they accepted that the rigorous attitude was necessary to accomplishing it.
So those are three soft-power skills, two hard-power skills. That brings me to the sixth skill which I think is crucial, which is what I call contextual intelligence.
Contextual intelligence is the intuitive diagnostic skill to align your tactics with a strategy that fits a given context. We sometimes think that leadership is innate or born and so forth. In fact, leadership, like all power relations, depends very much on context. Let me give you the example of Winston Churchill, another person who is often cited as one of the great leaders of the 20th century.
If we asked in January 1940, "Was Winston Churchill one of the great leaders of the 20th century?" the answer would have been, assuredly, no. In the beginning of the year 1940, Churchill was regarded as a washed-up backbench MP. The Conservative prime minister had comments, "Oh, yes, there's Winston, but nobody listens to him." Within six months, he was prime minister and was widely regarded as a charismatic leader of the British people.
What happened? Did Churchill change? Did any of his traits change from, let's way, January to May? Of course not, not a bit. What changed was the context. Hitler broke through in the Ardennes, drove British forces into the sea at Dunkirk, and all of a sudden the British people, the followers, wanted somebody who would fight on the beaches, in the streets, and rally. So the person who was the reckless cowboy in January was the man of the moment in May and June.
The sequel to that is equally interesting. In 1945, with the war won, this charismatic leader was voted out of office, because the British had turned from winning the war to building a welfare state, and Churchill wasn't the person they wanted for that.
So context is crucial. What's very important is the ability of a leader to sense changes or differences in context. Very often somebody who is a success in business goes to Washington and fails or vice versa. Somebody who has been in Washington goes to a university and fails. A leader who develops contextual intelligence is a lot like a surfer. It's the person who knows that if you get up on your board too soon, you are going to tip over, and if you fail to get up on the board until too late, you are going to miss the wave. That sense of when you move and how you move—what the context is—is absolutely central as a skill.
It's something that you can help people to learn, through case studies, through history, through training. You can make people aware that things that they do in one situation need to be adapted for another situation. You can help them learn how to broaden their bandwidth, so to speak.
A good example of this would be Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, who was once asked, "How many times a year do you just make the decision, a command decision?"
He said, "About a dozen times. After we have gone through this over and over, and people have different opinions, I just say, that's it. I'm deciding. I'm the boss."
He said, "But if I did that 18 times, I'd lose my best people, and if I did it three times, the company would fall apart."
That difference of knowing when it's the three, when it's the 18, when it's the 12—that depends upon contextual intelligence.
So in that sense, I think, as we as a people look at our selection of leaders, as we look ahead now to a presidential election, we are facing a question of how you can make judgments about these critical skills.
Interestingly enough, for the first time, we are looking at two senators. I think it's the first time in decades that we have had two senators. The interesting thing about that, of course, is that senators don't manage anything much larger than a 100-person staff, until they start campaigning and then they are up to 1,000 or 2,000—far from the 2 million-plus that go into just the civilian branch of the federal government that they are going to run.
So then we ask questions about how good their judgment is, how good their contextual intelligence is, how good their emotional intelligence is. We look at bits and pieces of their biographies. We look at how they have handled their campaigns, how they have replied and responded to crises, and we look at who they surround themselves with, to get some idea of what they may do. It's an imperfect art. In a democracy we sometimes get it wrong.
But as we are thinking about what the right way to consider leadership is and thinking about how we make decisions, we have to escape the old warrior ethic of macho, top-down, hard-power, command leadership and ask this more refined set of questions: Who is going to have the right set of soft-power and hard-power skills and enough contextual intelligence to know how to adapt them to different situations?
That's what I try to argue in the book. I think we need to rethink how we think about leadership.
Thank you very much.
Questions and Answers
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you. As I looked around the room, I have never seen so many people taking notes. So hopefully we have a roomful of leaders.
I would like to open the floor for discussion.
QUESTION: Joe, that was absolutely magisterial. I must say that, though you wanted to resist being drawn into the elections, it seems to me your last comment can only point to one possible direction. I'm curious as to whether you have seen in your look at American politics over the years leaders who have been skilled at running effective campaigns, but hopeless at running administrations and vice versa.
But that isn't my principal question. That does emerge, to some degree, from the last point you made. I can't help broadening your talk about leadership to the larger issue of soft power, in which you have carved out such a niche for yourself and really added something so valuable to the world of ideas. That really is in the context of the current elections.
To what degree—again, looking back over time, as well as, if possible, at the present context—do you find that the mix of leadership skills you have identified are useful predictors of the manner in which a leader will, in fact, project America's place in the world to the rest of the world? And from that point of view, therefore, what should we who are not American, but who are following these elections with fascination—sometimes horrified fascination—expect from and hope for in terms of a recalibration of America's now rather tattered soft power around the world?
JOSEPH NYE: Well, as they say in the British Parliament, I'll declare my interest. I am a supporter of Obama, and I think Obama would do more to restore American soft power than anything else we could do. But that's not the purpose of the book. The book is to be a more general analytical proposition.
I do think, though, that if you look at the campaigns, campaigns can be misleading. It doesn't necessarily prove who is going to be a successful president. George Bush ran in 2000 with the promise of "compassionate conservatism" and a humble foreign policy. That's not exactly what turned out.
So in that sense, you can't predict from what is said in a campaign what the administration will look like.
On the other hand, the campaign can give you some clues. For example, in McCain's favor, McCain was widely regarded as dead politically a year ago. He was able to revive that campaign and win the nomination. That's in his favor. That's a credit. This is a skill.
For Obama, in the running of his campaign, there has been an extraordinary calmness that suggests emotional intelligence. When the issue arose about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright—and this could have been very destructive for Obama's campaign—he used that occasion to write a speech which was one of the best speeches on race in America that we have seen since Martin Luther King. That capacity, I think, is another indication.
But you're right. That's not, alone, sufficient. That's why I said you need to look at elements of their biographies, things that we learn about their temperaments from outside the campaign or before the campaign, who they pick as advisers to surround themselves with. So no one thing helps.
But I think how they manage a campaign particularly tells you something about some of these indicators of temperament. It shows that McCain has a strong capacity for perseverance. It shows that Obama has a great emotional intelligence. But it's not sufficient; I agree with that.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Professor Nye.
I just want to take up on your point about leadership and vision, how to express that vision. You mentioned the need for a clear expression of vision. I just was reading a little while ago, in another leadership book—not yours—about the way in which President Reagan was an expert at that, and you referenced him. The point was made that he chose only three visionary goals that people could relate to.
The point was also made that leaders fail by either not expressing a clear goal or expressing too many.
In your experience and analysis of leadership, what's the magic number? Is there something magic about three? How many visionary goals, in other words, can an organization—or, for that matter, a country—really digest and relate to?
JOSEPH NYE: It's a very important question. The great danger is having a vision that is so diffuse that it means everything has a priority. When everything has a priority, nothing does. Then you dissipate, essentially, these energies. So three or four is probably about right. There is not a magic number.
The great danger is—when people campaign they get long lists of positions. They have staffs who give you the position of how we think about where the next master for Takiribas should be sitting or something. There's a position on everything.
The key is for the president to make clear that there are three or four which are central in terms of his priorities.
But the other thing about vision, I should point out, is, sometimes there is a view that the leader is the person who dreams up these visions and comes and tells people what they are. In many organizations and situations, it has to be the other way around. You have to listen to the followers, understand what's on their minds, figure out how you can collect some of those things into winning coalitions that others will want to follow.
I once was talking to a university president (not Harvard)—this was a new, incoming president—and I said, "What's your vision going to be?"
He said, "The first thing I'm going to do is sit around and talk to people and ask them that question."
I think there's a lot to be said for that. We sometimes think of vision as the top-down vision. There's a lot to be said for a soft-power, bottom-up, before you articulate it into a top-down vision.
QUESTION: That was fascinating. I thank you very, very much. As Joanne said, the pencils were all going around the room, so everybody seems to agree with me.
What I want to ask you is this. You seemed, particularly in your response to the last question, to point out a somewhat symbiotic relationship between the leaders and the followers. Therefore, who leads us, obviously, in a democracy is dependent upon the followers and whom we select. In the UK, in the 20th century, apparently the followers, the public, had that sixth point that you referred to, that contextual intelligence, which is intuitive. They seemed to have it, obviously, because at the right moment they chose Churchill, and when he wasn't needed for the next job, he was not chosen.
In our culture, we don't seem to have that contextual intelligence. We seem to base our selection on fantasy or totally subjective needs of individuals—"Who would you rather have a beer with," that kind of thing—personality. You said that contextual intelligence can be studied or can be taught. Can that be done for followers as well?
JOSEPH NYE: That's a great question.
For one thing, if you look at the selection of a British prime minister, a prime minister has been in Parliament for years. It's a London-centered society. So you don't get surprises. That's good and bad.
In the United States, we are not a Washington-centered society or a New York-centered society. We are a very dispersed federal country. We have longer campaigns, and we get surprises. Jimmy Carter coming from Georgia, George Bush coming from Texas, as governors—these are people who hadn't been vetted by, quote, the system. But it also allows for freshness. It allows for new people—surprises—of which Obama would be an example.
It's worthwhile also to remember that the British made some pretty bad mistakes in the 1930s, just as we made some bad mistakes in the 1920s.
It's very hard to get people as a whole to develop this contextual intelligence. It does mean that in a democracy the leader has a job as educator, as well as somebody who gives orders, which is trying to explain the world, to get people to see what's happening. What does globalization mean? What do we owe to people beyond our borders? How do we think about people who come across our borders? These are things where the leader is educator, as well as decider. That's an important role, which I think helps to generate some contextual intelligence in the body politic. But it's not easy.
QUESTION: Thank you very much also for your books.
I want to ask you a question also about contextual intelligence and the manipulation of the division between church and state in the United States. I saw a play yesterday afternoon called Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl, in which she interpolates Queen Elizabeth I, Hitler, and Reagan as different personalities in different eras who have used religion for different purposes in advancing their own cause. In her little footnote to the play—this is just two sentences about the United States—she wrote, in explaining why she wrote it, "We are a divided nation, and the more divided we are, the less we talk about what divides us."
Then she distinguishes the left, which is sort of secular, and the right, which she sees as very religious, even in terms of zealotry.
Do you agree with that comment that the United States is a divided nation now and that we are not talking about what divides us? Do you think that leaders—these two candidates, in other words—should bring some of these issues forward?
JOSEPH NYE: We are a divided nation. If you look at the campaigns of 2000 and 2004, what's remarkable is how close they were. A 500-vote difference in Florida would have made a different president in 2000; a 120,000-vote difference in Ohio, in 2004. That's, by definition, a divided nation. Cultural issues are a large part of that division.
But I think there is some argument that we are beginning to see some change on that. If you look at the evangelical movement, which was so energizing, actually, in American politics since Jimmy Carter in 1976—it's not, as some people think, just a Republican invention—many evangelicals are now talking about broader social justice, not the narrowest of cultural issues. I think that's very healthy. I think that also tends to serve as a bridge.
You also see more concern about environment, what we are doing to the planet, climate change and so forth, cutting across these.
So if we get away from what I might call the bedroom issues and look at the larger questions of social justice, there is common ground. I think we may be moving in that direction.
QUESTION: In our system, when the presidential candidates are talking in the primaries, they have to take positions that they don't necessarily have to take in the general election. How do they mesh these, if they get elected?
JOSEPH NYE: It's an interesting point. If the American electorate is a bell-shaped curve, in the primaries you are cutting that in half, and if you're a Republican you are running on the right half of the curve, and if a Democrat, on the left half. So the median voter for that is a standard deviation to the left of the median voter for the general election. So it's a classical problem. The answer is, Democrats run to the left in the primary and rush to the center in the general election, and Republicans, vice versa.
The problem is that in the age of instant clips, YouTube and videos and attack ads, people are bound to pick up what you said when you were running for half of the electorate and portray it for the center of the electorate, where the independents are. So the candidate who succumbs too much to just appealing to the base runs the risk of losing the independents in the general election.
I think we are seeing that on both sides. Both candidates have moved some issues more toward the center from where they were in the primaries.
But that's the nature of democracy. That's not going to change.
QUESTION: I would like to get back to the contrast in male and female leadership, and just explore a little bit what has gone on on the European continent. Angela Merkel is currently leading Germany, a country that has a very prominent place on the continent. But you have had a lot of female leadership in the Scandinavian countries.
Can you extrapolate a little bit on what you think the impact of female leadership has been on both sides, one where the others are fairly neutral, and their policies are different internally, and Angela Merkel, who has been thrust into the leadership role of a major country?
JOSEPH NYE: One should go back a little bit earlier to Margaret Thatcher, who certainly had a profound impact on Britain. Thatcher basically moved the whole spectrum of the debate in Britain. People often say Tony Blair stole Thatcher's clothes. In other words, he was basically softening and smoothing the Thatcher revolution and making it acceptable to a broader electorate.
There's an example of a female leader who had a very profound effect on her country.
In the Scandinavian countries, I think what is particularly interesting is—I think it's Norway that has a quota about the number of members of Parliament that have to be women, something like 40 percent or so. You get some quite extraordinary women in leadership roles, not just as prime ministers, but as ministers. When I have visited Norway, I have had the occasion to meet some of them. These are very able people. I think that gradually has an effect upon an electorate.
Angela Merkel is right now presiding over a divided coalition, but is probably the most popular politician in Germany. She's in midstream. It's too early to judge her ultimate full success or not.
But I think we are going to see more and more women leaders. One of the interesting questions will be the question of style. Sometimes people said Thatcher led by going against the gender stereotype, by being tough—"she was like a man." That's often said about Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir and so forth.
The interesting question is, a new generation of women leaders, like Merkel, are better able to combine hard and soft power.
So I think we are seeing change.
QUESTION: You are so insightful in combining hard and soft power and putting it into context. Could you do the same for the European Union community, for example—where you are moving from individual nationalistic states to an attempt to bring people together, for example, on foreign policy questions—or, the other side, China, where it's much more top-down? How would you apply your principles in these situations? What will this mean as we enter into a more global balance of power, where we no longer have the United States on top?
JOSEPH NYE: It's interesting. Europeans themselves talk about the importance of soft power. I had lunch last week with Barroso, the president of the EU Commission. He said, "Our major asset is our soft power, our ability to attract others to us."
But what's even more surprising is that Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, told the 17th Party Congress last year that China needed to increase its soft power. You don't see this so much internally, but they are making major efforts to attract others, and they have changed the nature of Chinese diplomacy quite considerably.
Why would a country want to do that, a country that is organized from the top down like China? One thing is that their hard power is increasing. China's economic and military strength is growing. It's a smart strategy to also try to increase your soft power, so that your hard power doesn't scare people into coalitions against you. I think the Chinese are probably going in that direction, for those good reasons.
Does that mean that it's a threat to us? Not necessarily. If you think that managing the U.S.-China relationship is one of the key questions of the 21st century, so that we don't get at cross-purposes—which we need not—then if Chinese soft power grows in the United States, so that Americans are less fearful of China and are attracted to China, and if American soft power grows in China, so that the Chinese are less fearful of the United States, that's a net gain for both of us.
So a lot will depend on how we use and how China uses that soft power. So far—and we are only at the beginning of a long process—I think, it's relatively well.
QUESTION: I just want to ask if you could go a little bit further in the previous question about women leaders. You were saying that it seems almost inevitable—that's my perception of what you were saying—that we will have more women leaders. I'm interested to know how we can hasten that, or whether we should seek to hasten it. What can we be doing?
JOSEPH NYE: Let me make sure that my prediction doesn't belittle the barriers that there are to women leaders now. If you look at the American Congress, it's only about 16 percent women, not 50 percent. If you look at American corporations, the big corporations, the numbers are down around 5 percent or so. So there is still a long way to go. There are lots of social and other barriers to women's advancement.
One of my colleagues at Harvard, at the Center for Public Leadership, in the office next to mine, Hannah Bowles, is doing some very interesting work on what some of these barriers are.
So I don't mean that this is going to happen overnight. But I do think that, generally, attitudes are beginning to change and that, as we begin to understand that it's not the tall, macho male who is, quote, the decider that is necessarily the best leader, we may essentially set a climate which is more conducive to women's advancement.
I think Hillary Clinton's campaign was a plus on that. If you look at much of the business literature, you are beginning to see in the business literature on leadership an awareness that these soft-power skills are important and that promoting women is not just affirmative action; it's good for the company, for leadership purposes.
I think you are going to need cultural and attitudinal change. Some people say, why don't you just legislate a quota, like the Norwegians do? I don't think that would ever work in the United States. In some countries, the Scandinavian countries, it works. I don't think it would work here. I think there would be strong resistance against it.
So I place more emphasis on getting people to rethink how they conceive of leadership and change those cultural attitudes, and then talent will rise.
QUESTION: I have watched what you had to say about soft and hard power for a number of years now. Very interesting.
I get the feeling that Sarah would go pretty high on all of these. But my guess is, you wouldn't think so.
JOSEPH NYE: We'll know a little bit more after she has finished her campaign. I think Sarah Palin has—here is a woman who has managed a family and maintained a stable family and marriage, and has been able to rise politically to become governor of Alaska. Whether you agree or disagree with her policies, that's pretty impressive. So I think she gets full credit for that. I think a good deal of the attraction which she generated after she was chosen represented that. People said, "Good for you."
I think the problem she's having now is, when she is interviewed by another woman, Katie Couric, and can't give answers, that is undercutting some of that attraction.
So I think she had a good deal of soft, attractive power at the beginning. She obviously has some hard-power skills, or she wouldn't have gotten to be governor of Alaska. Whether she has enough experience and background to maintain that through the campaign I think is her problem.
But in her example, I think she has indeed a good deal of soft power.
QUESTION: The first questioner sort of referred to the issue that I have, and that is that maybe the skills that one needs to get elected president are not the same skills that one needs when one is president. I'm just wondering if in your research you look at the corporate world and you look at parliamentary democracies, where skills have time to generate over a long period—and therefore the guy who ends up at the top or the woman who ends up at the top has demonstrated those skills—whereas with us, somebody can come out of left field, and often does. That doesn't seem, long-term, to be exactly what we want, to have somebody who hasn't demonstrated these skills and yet ends up as the president.
JOSEPH NYE: That's true. In parliamentary systems, which are more centralized, there is less of a gap between how you get elected and how you govern, because you have spent more time in sort of the center of government.
Sometimes people have said, why doesn't the United States have a parliamentary system? We were established by the Founding Fathers to be spread-out, diverse, and inefficient—literally. Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers that the greatest danger was to our liberties and that we did not want a centralized, efficient government. Federalism reinforces that.
There is a very good dimension of that. The joke about American government is that it was designed so that King George couldn't rule over us, and neither could anybody else. But there is a bad side of it, as that joke illustrates.
We are more open to new changes and talents, for better and for worse. Very often the skills that make you successful in an election are not the same skills that make you effective in governing. Unfortunately, that's the nature of democracy in America, for better and for worse.
QUESTION: Joe, that was a terrific talk. I served as a member of Congress during the administrations of six presidents, three Republicans—Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford—and three Democrats—Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter. But I was always in the majority in the House of Representatives. Have you any comments to make about the difference in the American democracy between leadership on the part of the executive as distinguished from leadership in the legislative branch?
JOSEPH NYE: Actually, you would be better at answering that than I, but I'll give you my answer.
I think it takes a very different type of leadership. If you look at Lyndon Johnson, "the master of the Senate," as described by Robert Caro—extraordinary skills in a legislative context, pulling together coalitions of people who didn't always agree with each other. When he got into the White House, he didn't have to do that. He had a smaller circle and sort of tried to "do it my way." The skills that made him master of the Senate didn't serve him nearly as well in the White House.
The person on your list that I think is underrated and that we ought to pay more attention to is Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower had extraordinary contextual intelligence. Here was a man who was a general—very hierarchical. He became a university president at Columbia—no structure at all, universities are very flat, as you know—and then became a president, and was successful in all three. So I think Eisenhower probably is a model of contextual intelligence.
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you for showing us what nice power is.