"For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?"
Others have followed suit. Father Ted Hesburgh, long-time President of Notre Dame University, said "you cannot blow an uncertain trumpet" if you aspire to be a leader. "The very essence of leadership is [that] you have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion."
In 1960, General Maxwell Taylor, retiring Army Chief of Staff, wrote a book that heavily criticised Eisenhower's 'New Look' Defence Policy. The book was called The Uncertain Trumpet.
But for anyone familiar with the counter-intuitive wisdom of International Futures Forum, it'll come as no surprise to hear that they advocate the uncertain trumpet.
Their book follows the approach of Jacques Delors's UNESCO report on education, which promoted four pillars of learning:
- learning to be
- learning to be together
- learning to know
- leaning to do
After quoting Ted Hesburgh's views on the uncertain trumpet, Graham Leicester and Maureen O'Hara note that "the market for quick fixes, false hope, silver bullets and ‘the smack of firm leadership’ is booming". It would be only too easy, they suggest, to issue a clarion call to single-minded leaders with clarity of vision and purpose.
"On the contrary", they say, "Today’s times require a more nuanced response – based on the stance outlined in chapter five: humility, balance and a faith in the future. We must become virtuosos in playing the uncertain trumpet. Perhaps in time we will achieve the degree of mastery described by the Sufi musician and mystic Hazarat Inayat Khan. He saw harmony as a greater virtue than truth and hoped in time to 'sound a note so deep as to embrace all humanity'".
In querying our Enlightenment-based obsession with the truth, Leicester and O'Hara seem to me to point the way to a more compassionate, tolerant and sustainable way of being in the world.
Dancing at the Edge: Competence, Culture and Organization in the 21st Century
by Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester