What if I told you that the world has suffered in equal measure from those with noble intentions as it has from those who had evil intentions. In fact, some of the worst things were done by people with “good intentions”. They meant well but the outcomes were terribly wrong.
The Manhattan Mistake.
Albert Einstein’s noble intention of stopping Hitler from being the first to produce a nuclear bomb created what he would later call a “Monster”. History has it that Leo Szilard explained to Einstein about the potential of what they had discovered and got him to endorse the project to the President of the United States at the time. By reason of that endorsement from the great Einstein, President Roosevelt would proceed with the Manhattan Project (a code name for the American-led effort to create a functional hydrogen/ atomic bomb). When the bombs were used in Japan at the end of the Second World War Einstein knew that he had made a grave mistake. 200,000 Japanese were dead as a result of his recommendation. Worse still, the Americans had pushed this Manhattan Project in vein as the Germans never developed the bomb they were afraid of. Einstein would always explain it as a “well-intended” mistake. Every noble person, including myself, makes excuses for our “well-intended” actions which may have caused someone else hurt. We say, “that person must understand that I meant well”. In the world of politics, this happens far too often.
We judge others by their actions, while judging ourselves by our intentions. -Anonymous
Take a Bow.
My thoughts swing to Zimbabwe as I am compelled to celebrate the enormous role Robert Gabriel Mugabe played in the emancipation of his people. He was imprisoned and suffered for the freedom the Zims now enjoy. Revered as a leader and acknowledged for his efforts, he was given a role as National Leader and President to complete what he had begun. This forms the backdrop of today’s Zimbabwe.
However, things appears to be very different as we look at the facts before us and as we are compelled to re-examine his legacy. Today he (Mugabe) is seen by many (rightly or wrongly) as a Tyrant, Bully and Powermonger. This perception was cultivated, fed and enhanced, becoming more than mere opinion. Perception is powerful and in the eyes of many he is seen as the enemy of the nation even though he laboured so heartily for many years to build modern-day Zimbabwe (granted, he didn’t work alone but his personal contribution was immense and significant). Nobody looking into the eyes of the future from Westminster House on 18 April 1980, as he took the Oaths as President, would have perceived today’s reconsideration. Once a nobleman, standing tall as a symbol of liberation, today the same man is remembered by many as a symbol of oppression. In his argument, he felt there was no one better to lead the nation until he was forced out. It all came to a holt when a large portion of the people started protests and was soon overrun by the army.
Quit when the ovation is loudest… that’s what Mandela did.
Going Too Far.
Another great example is George W. Bush. I firmly believe that George W. Bush in an effort to preserve the security and safety of America after 9/11 went several steps too far with his war on terror. The effects of those actions still linger in Iraq, Syria and others. Is the middle-east safer? Is terror defeated? Were those the best set of actions he could have taken? No, No and No.
We will all be fools to believe that nobility of purpose results only in positives. Far too often we get carried away with old actions in new situations.
We often forget to be empathetic with all current and future stakeholders when making begin decisions as long as it seems good to us.
Modern-day problems require new thinking and new approaches that some of the most well-intended leaders lack. At such a point, that leader must step aside for those who have the competence for those new challenges. Leaders often rush into things (well-intendedly), only to cause more harm than good. If you do not have the skills to handle matters arising, then maybe step aside for those who do. Or at least be honest that you are out of depth. You aren’t God and have a limited set of skills. It is okay to be limited to handle the next wave of challenges facing your organisation or nation. My Advice to these noblemen is to take a bow early and to let GO… it’s always better that way.
A ”No” Won’t Kill.
Let me take a break from only political examples and analogies. Take a look at the many examples of “over-loved” or “over-indulged” children: great intentions, noble motives but devastating results. To say no to such a child sometimes is to help them balance out.
Writer, Consultant, Analyst and Professional Parent