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  • Bob Westope

Wanted: A Heroic billionaire

A Manhattan Project scale effort focused on changing the way leaders lead is an existential imperative. What’s missing? The first billionaire.


To say we live in troubling times is in this moment an understatement.

Despite having seized the triumph of a new Age of Abundance at the beginning of the century – where by almost every measure the average human was doing markedly better than ever before, we have been stumbling backward toward the beguiling promise of pasts more imagined than real – allowing the seeds of ignorance to become firmly planted, and to grow.

There are few informed people who deny that we have already been confronted with not one, but several existential issues: climate change, income inequality, nuclear proliferation to name a few.  Addressing these seemingly intractable challenges is daunting enough – it is exponentially more so when one accepts that they must all be addressed simultaneously, and in a VERY short period of time.  Where it has taken us millennia to get where ‘we’ are, humanity must prepare itself for an unprecedented pivot in just years.  The clock of the Atomic Scientists and the UN (and our own eyes) tell us so.

And now the Covid-19 pandemic. A failure of basic animal husbandry at its source, to willful, witless ignorance at this apex moment.  It is the failure too of an international order made much less orderly by those focused on erecting walls and fanning fear, distrust and contempt of the ‘other’.

This simply is unacceptable in the 21st century. It is also an existential threat to civilization.

We are witnessing an epic insufficiency of leadership that is systemic and global. Not failed leadership to be sure - there are millions of people in government, business, academia, NGO’s and more doing outstanding work to assure a world of promise, shared prosperity and dignity – but it is a simple observation to note that ‘its’ not working. The ‘it’ are the narratives, cultures and practices that define the concept and expectations of ‘leadership’ – that have evolved systemically and globally through our collective pasts to become legacies that retard, rather than advance civilizing behaviour.

I submit that it is foolhardy to trust - alone – to the good intentions and hard work of our current leadership cohorts to develop the collaborative capacity to lead our one civilization through the challenges of the next decade.  Almost a year ago, best-selling author and New York Times journalist presciently wrote:

“We have never had a greater need for the E.U. and the U.S. to be led by people motivated by enlightened self-interest, who appreciate that virtually every problem destabilizing the world in this plastic moment is global in nature and can be confronted only with a coalition that is global. But instead, we are saddled with leaders who are much more adept at breaking things than making things — at going for broke rather than making the best of the bad. It just feels like our luck is running out.”[1]

But at this moment in history where we have identified the challenge – leadership – we must also admit candidly and with humility that there is not an agreed answer as to what a leader is, nor where such leadership should emanate from. Instead, for those of us who believe in the promise and potential of evolved liberal democracy – striving for a world where the fruits of society are equitably shared – there is hope. For those who look for workable solutions instead of orthodox answers, who look for inspiration from around the world, who reject extremes whatever their origin – there is a solution.

I submit that a Manhattan Project scale effort focused on changing the way leaders lead is an existential imperative to bias for success humanity’s journey through the next decade. Such an effort would have at its core a community of people from every nation, every profession, of the greatest diversity - connected, empowered and mobilized by an eco-system and infrastructure that is purpose built to the challenge – to then elevate that community into positions of influence power and impact by 2030. And core to that community is the value system that provides its North Star – its soul.

This in fact is the effort – the community - that I and over 600 others from 35 countries have been designing, prototyping and revising for the past several years.  It is called Leaders Expedition (LEx), a non-profit organization based in Toronto Canada. Self-financed with over $300,000, and 15,000 volunteer hours invested, we have the scaffolding – the nuanced eco-system and infrastructure - ready to scale the LocalCircles that will transform our communities and the GlobalCircles that will likewise transform where we work, and will elevate one million of our members into positions of influence, power and impact – from classrooms to boardrooms to legislatures by 2030.

There is no denying the audacity of this venture. Nor however, is there any escaping the consequence of failure. Not unlike the total-war challenge faced by the Allies in 1940 in their fight against fascism, there is no option now but to prevail. That is the reality we face today. And just like the protagonists of that conflict, we must approach the challenge we face with this generations’ Manhattan Project – an unqualified exertion of resource and effort to assure that the values of liberal democracy prevail.  

What’s missing? Money.

We have exhausted the limits of self-financing. To scale our vital effort now requires the support of those with the financial wherewithal who share our POV and our Tenets, the 1% of the 1% who fear – and hope - for the future as we do.  And the first step is always the hardest – we need the first benefactor to step forward to help us catalyze her/his/their peers. However, unlike the Manhattan Project - one of the most expensive publicly financed undertakings in human history - we believe that we are creating a purposefully supported community of accomplished persons that will by definition come to represent an unprecedented aggregation of successful social entrepreneurs (among other things), with the potential to share in that community's success.

A Call To Action

If you have the financial wherewithal to support us, please reach out to me. If you know of a pathway to such an individual, institution or organization or can amplify our message in any way, please do likewise. A number of documents and videos can be found on my LinkedIn profile.

A pandemic such as Covid-19 is unacceptable in 2020.

In 2030 a pandemic such as Covid-19 (or worse?) MUST be impossible.

Who's accountable for that?

I've put my money on Leaders Expedition. You should too. [1] Thomas L. Freidman, New York Times, April 30, 2019

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©2020 by Leaders Expedition (LEx).