Wikipedia describes “Leadership” as, “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". We all have seen many examples of this in our daily lives at work, in our places of worship, in the military, in sports, and elsewhere. Unfortunately we rarely see this trait exhibited in our most important area, by our elected officials. Not only that, it gets harder and harder to find, the more powerful the position.
American history if full of examples of great political leaders: The signers of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, just to name the most obvious. All of these people were able to not only win elections, they were able to get a majority of people to agree with them and to go along with what they were trying to accomplish. Even if you do not today agree with their political positions, you have to admire how they were able to build consensus and get things done.
Many books have been written on the traits that make up a great leader, so the world doesn't need me to weigh in on that. However, one of the common traits found among all great leaders is integrity. People will follow you if they trust you, it is the foundation upon which all other leadership traits are built.
Where are our great leaders today? Sadly, we have none. Presidential approval ratings consistently run under 30% while Congressional approval ratings run below 20%. Why is that? As I stated in at the beginning of this piece, we are surrounded by examples of great leaders everywhere we turn, except in the political arena. Why do we settle for people who are electable instead of people who are effective leaders?
Could it be because no one in their right mind would run for office in the current climate? You have to be willing to beg for money because it takes obscene amounts of money to run a modern competitive election. You have to be willing to take the inevitable personal attacks on the chin and keep smiling. Your family has to also have thick skin because they are now fair game. You have to be ready at all times to defend yourself against false attacks from people outside of your voting area. Do you think Sarah Palin’s family was ready for the onslaught that followed her nomination as John McCain’s running mate?
The majority of the great leaders in the non-political world look at the way the candidates are treated and they say thanks, but no thanks. During the election season, we are inundated with negative TV commercials, many of them flat out lies, and no one is held accountable for them.
The First Amendment of the Constitution protects free speech. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be consequences for lying the way they do now. During the Obama/Biden Romney/Ryan Presidential Election, did people really think that Rep. Paul Ryan was going to push old people off of a cliff? It said so in a commercial and the producer of that garbage received no sanctions at all.
Given the current “Rules of Engagement” in our current political world, it is no wonder that the greatest minds and strongest leaders stay on the sidelines, and we end up with a Community Organizer as President.