Thursday, November 22, 2007

Longing for Leadership

It's easy to be pessimistic about America. Both our country and our society have been muddling along for a few years.

The Bush administration's "accomplishments" have been generally negative but - even more important - they've been done with a minimum of popular support. Can you remember even one Bush speech that aroused the citizenry to action? Yet Bush's negative accomplishments were possible because there was no leadership in the opposition. Sadly, congress's ratings are worse than the president's.

Society-wise, we seem to be focused on our own entertainment, on celebrities' antics, and on staying ahead of the bill collectors from the credit card companies. Nothing seems to excite us as a populace - not global warming, nor illegal immigration, or the Iraq war, or even gas prices over $3.25 a gallon. We're not happy about anything, but we seem to be placidly accepting whatever comes to us or is done to us.

Unfortunately, merely laughing at John Stewart's comedy is not an active response to the problems in our government or our society. What we need is some vision and a good kick in the pants, and that is what effective leadership is all about.

Good leaders create a vision by comparing "what is" with "desired state", and then develop a step-by-step plan for moving toward that state. The populace must either accept the desired state goal on their own (it's obvious!) or be educated to see its importance. Once the desired state is accepted, the step-by-step process is communicated and sold, one step at a time. Since almost all choices involve trade-offs, the pain required for each gain must be justified. Thus, a vision is useless without constant, effective communication. Absent a clear emergency, only a great leader can marshall a significant majority of citizens to follow a vision for the time needed to achieve it.

As the next election nears, I'm hoping that several clear voices will emerge to "talk turkey" (a very obscure expression) to all of us. Of all the current candidates, Ron Paul appears to be the most plain speaking and results oriented. Maybe Obama is showing a little straight-shooting as well. If we're going to get a true leader as our next president, we should see that leadership ability during the campaign. So far, none of the front runners have shown me much. I'm longing for leadership. Without it, America will be little better off in the post-Bush era.

1 comment:

Woozie said...

Well, there was that impromptu speech at Ground Zero a couple of days after when he said "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."

That was a good moment for him, but I can't think of any others.