When George Bush was the President, the assertion put forth by a powerful mass media was that because of his abhorrent leadership the United States lost the respect of other nations. We were convinced that he was a poor communicator and that was his great weakness. It is comforting to know, now that we have been gifted with hope and change, that we are turning that around.
Unlike those who hold the nation’s ear, I am not afraid to admit that there is much that I do not know. It is a thought that hopefully keeps me grounded. What I do know is that the people who steer world opinion via our mass media do not possess anymore knowledge than me or the average man and woman in our blessed nation and a far cry less common sense. Many of them actually know far less than the rest of us. They also do not have a greater ability than anyone else to think critically. They are gifted only with an above average ability to orate from scripts and Teleprompters, but that is where the difference ends. We will do well to focus on what is said rather than how well it is said. Those who earn great paychecks to lead us from Washington are also not smarter or better thinkers than the rest of us.
There are things I do know. They do not come from text books or a college professor’s utopian world theory and thankfully not from the mouths or keyboards of the media elite. Nor do they come from alleged nuanced deep thinking politicians. Important lessons are learned during times when life smacks us in the face with an often harsh reality. These lessons are best not forgotten. Americans are being schooled now. Heck, we are completing post graduate studies.
I have observed and studied many leaders close up. It was once a critical aspect of my profession. Leadership is the difference between success and failure and too often life and death – life and death of people, organizations and even nations. The leadership equation helps me understand why leaders are either good or bad.
The leadership equation is:
- Modeled Principles plus Modeled Values equals Character.
- Demonstrated Knowledge and Skill plus Demonstrated Ability equal Competence.
- The sum of Competence plus the sum of Character equals Trustworthiness.
- Trustworthiness equals the level of Trust others have in potential leaders.
- The level of trust someone has equals his or her ability influence others – the led.
- Their ability to influence others based on demonstrated competence and character equals the quality of leadership.
The root of leadership is the ability to influence others. People most certainly can be influenced by means other than the quality of character and competence. When that happens, it eventually looks like Libya. If any part of the leadership equation has a negative value, leadership fails. The first failure of leadership comes when what is modeled (the walk) does not measure up with what was sold (the talk). If you want to decide if a leader measures up, put aside your political ideology and do some thinking for yourself. Your other choice is to allow agenda driven propaganda to do your thinking for you.
When leaders cannot measure up because they are untrustworthy, the void created by their incompetence and dereliction is filled by others. Unfortunately for the led, it is not always the best leader that emerges to fill the empty space. Given the chance to choose, which in America we are still fortunate to have, more often than not we focus on the talk more than the walk.
People need leadership. Organizations need leadership. Countries need leadership. All need someone to point the way. That is our human nature. It is a herd mentality and at the roots that is what we are. Even in the wild, the leader of the herd has positive values in the leadership equation. Otherwise the reign is short and vultures swoop in to pick the carcass clean.
The world needs a leader too. Not in the sense of global governance, but in the sense of the will and wherewithal to confront and solve problems whether they are genocidal dictators, natural disasters or suicidal economics. That leader was once the United States of America, the world’s lone superpower. At present, in the eyes of the world, the United States has negative values in the leadership equation. Others are gladly stepping forward to fill the void and we are becoming isolated yet dependent followers. We cannot survive it.
If we want our country to measure up, we have to start by choosing leaders who measure up. There are some out there that can get the job done. If you want to know who, just look at who is the most criticized by the people who hope to do our thinking for us. The same people who convinced us to choose our currently failing leaders.