I think we all can agree there’s been a dearth of leadership lately. It feels like our country is coming apart at the seams.
In less than two months we will have a presidential election here in the United States. Billions of dollars have been spent trying to influence voters to lean one way or another. Interestingly enough a majority of people will simply vote their party line and put very little effort into understanding the position of the other candidate or their leadership abilities. As a result, a comparatively small number of swing voters in an equally small number of states will end up deterring the final outcome. As someone who certainly has a strong sense of party loyalty but has crossed party lines on many occasions this has always frustrated me. No one party has the market cornered on good ideas or is the sole wellspring of capable leaders – the history of our nation has proven this.
I have spent considerable time studying leadership and observing leaders. I also enjoy reading about the presidency and the 43 occupants of the oval office. In my humble opinion, the most successful presidents have exhibited the following traits:
We are in the midst of a fairly active and important election season in my local area. Many critical positions are up for grabs which is clearly illustrated by the large number of individuals who have thrown their hat in the ring. I am sure there are varying motivations by the candidates as to why they are running. Personally, I try to give them all the benefit of the doubt that their primary motivation is to make a positive difference. I don’t expect to agree with every candidate, but I do expect them to have the courage of their convictions. Having studied leadership and politics for quite a long time now, the following characteristics emerge as indicative of whether or not someone will be effective once they assume office:
Far too many people think that leadership is about style over substance these days. It’s almost as if it is more important to look and sound like a leader rather than behave like one. I wonder if historical figures like Abraham Lincoln with his high pitched nasally voice ad physical awkwardness or George Washington who was personally aloof and somewhat stiff in public settings would even stand a chance today. When a society starts spending more time focusing on how things appear rather than how they truly are, we as a people are in trouble. It is the content of someone’s character that matters most when tough decisions need to be made. We are in serious times both geopolitically and socioeconomically. We need deliberative thinkers who think before they act, don’t rush to judgment, have the ability to prioritize amongst competing issues, stay cool under pressure, maintain a reasonable level of consistency in their actions and messaging, build alliances rather than make enemies, and tell us the truth even when it is unpopular. The presidency shouldn’t be just a popularity contest.
As we start another week with political posturing around the debt ceiling it has become far too obvious how political considerations are trumping bipartisanship and what’s best for the country. For all intensive purposes this is a manufactured crisis. The government can’t afford not to raise the debt ceiling for many important reasons. In the past it has been done under presidents from both parties. Since it is a major election season next year, political leaders on both sides are using the issue as a hammer to beat up on their opposition – how sad, yet predictable.
There is no shortage of people who are unhappy with our government or political process these days, but very few of us actually do anything about it. It is much easier to complain and assume that one particular party has all the answers or not. In addition, instead of actually doing some research and using fact based arguments, we prefer to have strong opinions based on the rhetoric and propaganda of ill informed media personalities.
A well functioning democracy requires the active participation of its citizenry. To be actively involved, one must take the time to become informed and make reasonable judgments as to who best represents their interests and is most qualified to fulfill the needs of their community, county, state and country.