Leadership, Citizenship & The Problem with Falling in Love… with Politicians
The other day I tweeted about leadership, and, as succinctly as 140 characters forces you to be, I tried to express that leadership requires a backbone, principles, goals, clear direction, specific game-plans, communication, motivation, inspiration, and the courage to be unpopular. I was surprised at how much that resonated with others who commented on my tweet or asked permission to use it.
Leadership begins and ends with having a strong backbone and the courage to do what is right, even if it is unpopular. But what is right is relative to each individual. This is why it is so important for the followers to know what the leaders, or those who are asking to lead us, believe in. What are their principles? What is their vision? What are their goals? In what direction do they want to lead, and how do they plan to get us there? And ultimately we need to decide if we want to go there with them, wherever there may be.
Sometimes people don’t know why it is important to go there. Leaders need to be able to communicate, to motivate, to inspire people to lofty and worthy principles. They need to explain why it is important to achieve certain goals, even if they are difficult, even if they are unpopular, so that we can live up to the better part of ourselves, so that we can achieve together what we cannot do on our own.
When leaders tell us what they think we want to hear so that they can get elected or remain in their positions of leadership, they are not leading. They are cowardly following the popular opinion of the many, while often accepting the bribes from the powerful few. They are self-serving, concerned more with their well-being or re-election than they are with the public good or with solving the problems of the day.
Perhaps history has spoiled me with stories of brave and principled men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for others, for a better society, for better government. Our country and government was founded by such men and women, however imperfect and flawed as individuals they may have been, they were guided by strong principles nonetheless. Where are these men and women today?
We have recent and current examples of politicians speaking out of both sides of their mouth – saying to different groups completely incompatible things or pandering to whatever group can get them what they want at any given moment in time. Anyone who truly listens will realize that these politicians are lying to one of the groups, because they cannot achieve opposite sides of an issue, but most people don’t really listen… they hear what they want to hear.
WHY VOTE?: “Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.” -W. E. Simon
Politicians who give beautiful and inspirational speeches sometimes make us fall in love with them and when you fall in love with someone you only hear what you want to hear. You make excuses for their contradictory statements, for their indiscretions, for their lack of competence. You get upset with others who criticize them, who question what they are doing and why they are doing it. You forgive them for their failings and shortcomings and for not delivering on their promises.
As time passes, and their failed promises, selfishness or incompetence becomes all the more evident, all the more impossible to ignore, you become disappointed and disillusioned, you get angry, you disengage, you feel duped and lied to, you no longer trust your instincts about people or your ability to vote for the best candidate.
PROVE HIM WRONG!: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” -Winston Churchill
Perhaps, in these times, we need to be content to vote for the least ‘worst’ candidate. But how do we do it? Why not begin by listening, really listening… by doing our research and checking their records… expanding the choice of papers we read and the networks we watch to get our news… by watching their debates and reading their position papers… by keeping in mind that many of them are born con-men, salesmen, or actors trying to convince us to vote for them… but in the end, if all else fails, we should try using our common sense to judge the viability and veracity of what the candidates say.
But whatever we do… we need to vote on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010… in person or by absentee ballot, but we need to vote. It is our right as citizens and it is our duty in a democracy.
Martie Hevia (c) All Rights Reserved