The leadership quality of politicians remains a much discussed topic in a networked world.

In this permanent global economic crisis, the maxim of the great philosopher Karl Popper is valid now more than ever; because “the open future holds unforeseeable and totally different moral possibilities” in store for us, the question should be “What should we do?” instead of “What will come?”

Political theorists and historians thought leadership crises would be the consequence of mediocrity or irresponsibility of those in power. Barbara Tuchman wrote in her famous book "The March of Folly" that “it qualifies as folly when it is a perverse persistence in a policy demonstrably unworkable or counter-productive.”

The world economy has gone off the rails and surveys world wide confirm the people’s distrust of their respective political elite. This simultaneous crisis of confidence appears especially uncanny when it concerns such democratically governed countries as the U.S., Japan and Germany. Two-and-a-half years after his election, Barack Obama, the first African-American president in the history of the United States, is in danger of becoming a one-term president, a failure who has largely lost the support of the urban liberals, workers, black and Hispanic Americans, environmentalists and youth of the 2008 election through his hesitation and wavering. The 50-year-old Obama is no longer the shining light for the start of a new age, but rather a politician, who, through his zigzag course and sellouts in economic, finance and social policy, has deeply disappointed the (admittedly inflated) expectations of his supporters.

Even worse is the weak leadership in Japan, the democracy with the second largest national economy in the world. After the forced resignation of prime minister Naoto Kan, the Democratic Party ruling for two years elected a successor who is the sixth Japanese prime minister in just five years. Kan, who was appointed prime minister only in June 2010, as carrier of the hopes of the citizen’s movement, foundered not only due to criticized failings after the atomic catastrophe of Fukushima, but above all on the opposition of his own party and the government bureaucracy.

Even the “most powerful woman in the world,” German chancellor Angela Merkel, wrestles with sinking approval ratings and the consequences of relentless media attacks due to her long hesitation in European and economic policy and after obstacles from her own party. Nevertheless most foreign observers (including me) view the protestant minister’s daughter from former East Germany as an extraordinary appearance in German history and as a piece of good fortune for democratic Europe. Her failure would be a momentous setback with serious consequences for European policy.