Tony Blair: Keep Pace With Change

'There’s never been a tougher time to be a leader.'

February 24, 2014

Tony Blair

The scope and speed of change today have made leadership a daunting task. But the best measure of leadership success ultimately boils down to one question: Did you do what you thought was right?

That’s the approach Tony Blair has taken during his storied career as politician, diplomat, and Middle East peace broker.

“There’s never been a tougher time to be a leader,” the former prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland told GAC attendees Monday morning. “Technology is changing how we live and giving rise to a global movement of ideas. The world has become less certain and more unpredictable than ever, and we have to adjust our thinking to keep pace with change.”

Blair has witnessed this uncertainty during his 114 visits to the Middle East, where he’s helping the Palestinians prepare for statehood. He says it’s crucial for the West to be involved in resolving conflict in this region and elsewhere.

“The best short-term politics is clear: ‘It’s a mess; let’s stay out of it.’ But problems spread like tentacles if you don’t address them.”

Blair sees a growing battle worldwide between those who want free, open societies and those who espouse intolerance and seek to go backwards. “It’s dangerous for us not to engage.”

Engagement is especially important as the global balance of power shifts from West to East, fueled by the growth of China and India. “China will become as powerful as the U.S.,” he says. “In time, the West and East will have to share power. We need to have a strong America to stand up for our values. We need leaders who’ll make decisions based on the long term.”

When asked what he thought of the three U.S. presidents with whom he has worked—Obama, Bush, and Clinton—Blair deferred to diplomacy. “They’re all very different and I have respect for their integrity.”