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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Leaders vs. Leadership

I don’t like to get into politics in this blog, but this isn’t so much a rant about current events as the likelihood that the crowd in D.C. will be able to do anything good about them.  We elect our leaders.  Our process for selecting leaders is greatly flawed.  Well, not really.  The flaw has less to do with the process itself and more to do with the ability of the people making the choice to do so effectively.

Before I explain myself, let’s back up and talk about an implied expectation: leaders will practice leadership.  On the surface, this seems to be an intrinsic truth.  How can someone whose job it is to lead be in that position and not lead?  It turns out, the answer is: easily.  You see, leadership is a skill.  To have these skills, one must be a good judge of talent, have the vision to see a good path forward and communicate effectively. 

What about politicians?  What skills do they need to get elected?  First, they need to be able to assess what the majority of the constituents want to hear.  They need to be able to say it in a compelling manner.  And, most importantly, in the age of television, they need to look and sound good.  Notice that only one of the three skills, strong communications, is in common with both jobs.  This is not to say that a politician can’t have all five attributes.  Oh, to be a politician AND a leader, one need one other attribute – courage. 

The reason that courage is so important is because most of the politicians in government are not “leaders.”  That means they lack vision.  If most of the people we choose to lead are not leaders, those that are will need to be able to stand up against not only their peers, but also the many citizens who bought into the clever arguments those “non-leaders” made during their campaigns.  The reality is, everybody wants a great society, but nobody wants to pay for it.  People will let the situation degrade over the course of many years, but they want it fixed up right now.  Politicians that promise to do that are lying, but people don’t want to hear the truth.  Candidate Obama said that it would take time to solve the deep issues faced by our nation.  President Obama has been given less than a year, during which time his approval rating has dropped from over 70% to less than 50%.

So, people don’t know what’s good for them.  Politicians tell them what they want to hear.  Because they lack vision, the people and the politicians believe the bullshit.  Therefore, we get politicians – not leaders.  How can we get out of this?  That’s for another blog.
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