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Adrian Wooldridge

Kissinger Knows Why the Global Leadership Deficit Is Getting Worse

One of the world’s most seasoned statesmen argues that the civilizational springs that water great leaders may be drying up.

What made them great?: Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle, circa 1960.

What made them great?: Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle, circa 1960.

Photographer: STILLS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The general crisis of global leadership continues to deepen. One of Europe’s most impressive leaders, Italy’s Mario Draghi, has resigned in frustration. The leading candidate to replace the UK’s Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, is likely to make even more of a hash of things than he did. (Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s one-time consigliere, uses a trolley emoji to denote Johnson, because he careers all over the place, and a hand grenade to denote Truss.) Across the Atlantic, Joe Biden is hampered not just by old age but by an approval rating of just 38%. And in the emerging world, the president of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has been driven out of office and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salem, is wasting untold billions building a fantasy city in the desert, Neom, that features canals so that children can swim to school (thus solving the obesity crisis) and flying elevators.

Why is the quality of global leadership plummeting? The best explanation I have come across is provided by the 99-year-old Henry Kissinger in his new book, “Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy.” This book should be prescribed reading for businesspeople not only because they need to understand an increasingly volatile political world, but also because the leadership problems that Kissinger diagnoses afflict businesspeople as well as politicians.