On Leadership

“How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt?” Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), 33rd American president

As I watch the news on the Gulf of Mexico oil crisis, I am growing ever more dismayed on the evident lack of leadership on all sides of the issue. While I do not begrudge our President or the leader of BP an occasional need to relax, their behavior during this crisis now borders on being unseemly. Americans want action – not a bureaucratic photo op. We understand that this is a mess, and that it needs to be fixed. Platitudes, speeches and threatening retribution are not the immediate need; we need someone to step up and lead us through the cleanup of this first, not politics as usual. We want experts sent to the gulf, not more politicians and lawyers.

True leadership requires more than words. It requires action. Unfortunately, leadership and politics do not always go together. True leadership not only requires strength, it requires risk and sacrifice, which is more than most politicians today are willing to do. A leader rolls up their sleeves and pitches in, without afraid of getting dirty, knowing that this is what gives confidence to the people. A true leader knows words mean nothing in a time of crisis, and does not waste time pointing the finger at someone else (there is always plenty of time for that later). A true leader accepts their own limitations and works with people who have talents they do not possess, humble enough to recognize the need for the greatness of others. They do not let either bureaucracy or their own pride get in the way of getting things done.

The safety and security of America depends on leadership with integrity and virtue. We cannot continue to be a great nation if we empower people that are incapable of leading in this regard, who rest on words instead of action, or worse, hide behind bureaucratic red tape. Americans are people of action, and we expect our leaders to be so as well. Lately however, the only action we have been seeing is to promote either the agenda of an elite few or to entrench a political constituency. The inaction seen in the gulf by our government is further proof of the dearth of leadership in this country, as well as prove the sheer  impotence of any government bureaucracy in time of crisis (I shudder to think how they are going to manage healthcare, but I digress)

The government needs to learn the following lesson: either lead, follow, or get out of the way. Bureaucracy only stifles leadership and efficient, effective action. Those politicians that leverage a crisis for either political gain or to force an agenda expose their poor leadership skills at best, and their tyrannical desire for more power at worse. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.”

 Americans sacrifice far too much for themselves, their families, and their country to accept second best any longer. We are tired of politicians that merely parrot the opinions of their party leaders, as well as those that merely tell us what we want to hear. We need to look at actions rather than pretty words or half truths. We need to investigate those that we endorse, making sure that we know the whole truth, not just what they want us to read about. I want to be educated, not lectured. I want a leader that not only loves America, but trusts and believes that Americans – not the government – are the source of our greatness.

Remember, true leaders lead by example, being always busied by their actions, not their words.

“Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.” Joseph Story, U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1811-1845, in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, published in 1833.

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