I have written before about the leadership equation. The equation discusses necessary elements that combine to make a leader effective. The bottom line of leadership is the ability to influence others toward achieving specific goals or a vision. If the actions of the leader – demonstrated character and competence – fall short, the led will pull away from rather than follow. When the led pull away, failing leaders become desperate. Historically, dangerously so.
As a leader hopes to influence outcomes, he or she must demonstrate some intangible attributes that further define his or her character.
A leader motivates. How do leaders motivate the led? A leader must know that people are motivated by the leader’s actions and not his or her words. A leader’s actions will motivate the led in a direction that is either toward or directly away from his or her proven destination. People are motivated by positive and caring leaders who share the hard times with them. People are not motivated by fear. People driven by fear will at some point rebel. Leaders motivate people by sharing time with them – outside the public eye.
A leader inspires. Before a leader can inspire the led, he or she must first be inspired by the led and what the led has stood for throughout its history. One cannot inspire the led if he or she spends time apologizing for their past and present while promising to fundamentally transform their future. One does not hope to change what inspires them.
A leader is selfless. A leader knows that whatever it is, it is not about him or her. It never was about him or her. It is about the led, whether people, an organization or a nation. A selfless leader does not base his or her actions on what might be gained or lost personally. A selfless leader builds unity in the led and does not seek to divide them. As we are taught, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
A leader may cause the potential led to swoon with motivational phrases like yes we can or inspire them with well crafted and rehearsed messages of hope and change. A leader may speak of selflessness as a shared sacrifice from all. And afterwards, all the people might say amen and choose to be led by empty, inspiring words unsupported by any past action. This speaks to the fallibility of the led. At some point, the leader must live up to the expectations built by words. When he cannot, the led will suffer tremendously and then cast him aside. History will remember not the leader’s lofty rhetoric and unfulfilled promises as something good, only as something very dangerous. History will only attribute to the leader failure and the near destruction of a nation. This is a repeated story in the history of nations.
Aside from those important personal attributes, a leader, as does any person, is driven by a value system. A person’s value system is what influences his or her choices. A person’s values are the last thing he or she will forsake – no matter the words that pour forth in lofty oratory. To lead a body of people, an organization or a country, a leader must share the value system of the led. As an example, one cannot lead a historically Christian nation if he proclaims before the world that it is not a Christian nation. No, the United States of America is not a Christian nation in the sense that Saudi Arabia is an Islamic nation, but it is a nation of Christians. It is a nation founded on Christian beliefs. A nation founded on the notion of God-given freedom and a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence. There are no truer Christian ideals than those.
It is time for all of us Americans to take a long look in the mirror and decide what it is we value and whether we will again follow empty rhetoric – probably to our end. Each of us must ask ourselves if we are willing to stand passively by while America dies.
We must scrutinize every potential leader. We must with open eyes and hearts, see beyond the emptiness of words. If we choose another leadership failure, America dies and with her freedom. As President Reagan said, “If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth.”