Good: Virtuous. Right. Commendable.
Great: Remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness.
When it comes to leadership, it is not good to great; so much as good vs great.
An uncomfortable truth about human history is that the greatest – that is the most effective, influential, and powerful – leaders are seldom the most good. Indeed the Venn diagram between goodness and greatness barely seems to overlap.
The arc of history has been shaped by the powerful, the strong and the great. The men and women who were prepared to bend that arc to their own will, regardless of the cost, to themselves and others. The men and women with blood on their hands.
This applies to both the great statesmen and the great industrialists of historical and present times.
The politicians prepared to sleep and bribe and steamroll their way into power. The kings prepared to sacrifice the life and limb – and avoid literal and figurative assassinations – for the crown. The entrepreneurs prepared to sacrifice their health and the mental and physical wellbeing of their employees for their goals. The celebrities who demand attention rather than those who try to deserve it.
Of course, there are some leaders who are and were both good and great, but goodness is not and has never been a prerequisite for greatness.
When Alexander the Great was asked who he wanted to take over his kingdom, he answered “To the strongest.”.
Was Alexander the Great a good man? No. But he was a strong man. And he understood the future, like the past, belongs to the strongest.
Not the most virtuous. The strongest.
To change the future, good men need to become strong, because strong men do not need to become good to control it.