I am not a political pundit nor do I desire to be one. What I have is a passion for character-based leadership and analyzing the application of this practice. With the upcoming United States Presidential Election, I have been struck by how the candidates and press are negotiating their way through this process. It does not matter what your political affiliation is, whether you are on the right, the left, a moderate, or a tea party advocate; there are certain leadership characteristics you should expect from your candidate. I would bet it is safe to assume that most people expect that their candidate should be a person who is bold enough to do what is right for the country, and have the ability to influence others to follow suit.
The United States is facing several critical issues just like the rest of the world. We are still in an economic downturn – a nice expression for a recession bordering on a depression. Prices continue to increase, while the job market continues to struggle. The basic staples of life such as food are reaching all time highs along with the consistent increase in the price of gas. Paying for just the basics has greatly reduced our discretionary income. Discretionary income is what enables us to purchase what we like; our personal “luxury” items, which continue to drive money into the economic machine. The more discretionary income available allows the consumer to purchase more, creating a greater need of goods and services. Personnel are needed to produce additional goods or provide services, therefore creating more jobs in the process. When you add the complications of the United States’ mounting debt, healthcare and social security, we have an army of critical issues that we need a leader with conviction to stand up and solve.
As I have been watching the candidates and the press coverage, I am appalled by what I see. There has only been rhetoric about the economy and having a plan to fix it. Neither Romney nor Obama have presented a workable solution of how to solve our critical issues. They spend more time pointing out the deficiencies of the other candidates, or defending things they have done in the past. If either candidate has a rock-solid plan to fix these issues, are they simply bad leaders because they cannot stay on message or inspire people to follow them on their journey? The press does an outstanding job flooding the airwaves and social media spheres with a myriad of social issues and how the candidates approach them. Talk of our looming fiscal disaster takes a back seat to the press coverage of a candidate’s stance on gay marriage, abortion, and the legalization of marijuana. Let’s take a reality pill here. While social issues are a hot button for inspiring passion in people, they will not solve the fiscal mess this country is in. It is not the government’s job to govern morality. Although it would not be a popular stance, it would be refreshing to see a leader take a stand to fix the economic crisis first, and then work on the other issues after the economy is back on solid ground.
The government has made a mockery of this most recent recession and it is almost comical if it was not so sad. Our government leaders have highlighted the corruption and greed of the corporate world as a driving factor of why we are in this recession. I am sure we all remember the auto-manufacturing crisis, when certain CEOs took private jets to Washington, D.C. to ask for federal government relief because the very existence of their organizations depended upon it. We can look at the bank CEOs who made immense lapses in judgment creating a mountain of bad debt and upside-down mortgages. The government is coming down on these people and their poor leadership. Let me state that these CEO’s made severe leadership mistakes that destroyed many lives along the way, and in no way their behavior should be condoned. We should also take a look at the success of governmental leadership. The same government that is holding the corporate world accountable is the same government that refuses to work together. It operates the country in a blazing-red status, ignores the Social Security crisis and is plagued with healthcare issues. Their primary focus should be getting us out of this recession. What would happen to you at your job if you acted the same way that our elected officials are behaving? Unable to focus on their appointed duties because they are too distracted by personal and political biases. Diversity of thought is supposed to spur innovation, not create children sulking in corners. This behavior has never been tolerated in my professional career, nor would I find my career very gratifying if I had to work in an environment where these behaviors were accepted.
We need to get around the “critical” press stories of when Romney was employed at Bain Capital and whether or not Obama has a birth certificate. Does it really matter in the end if one of them can right this sinking ship? People believe these points highlight a candidate’s credibility. I think a candidate shows credible leadership if they can articulate a solid, realistic plan. When I managed those in a customer service role, I had one hard, fast rule – Tell a customer what you can do for them, not what you are unable to do. I believe the same applies here, tell the American public what you are going to do and how you will get it done. Forget the rhetoric, people are frustrated and no one is really listening anymore.
From my perspective, common sense dictates that we need to fix our core issues and we need a group of leaders that can deliver on this. Unfortunately common sense does not appear to be so common anymore. I do not see candidates rallying around a message and a mission to fix our problems. I do not hear candidates creating goals with measurable benchmarks on how to improve upon our critical issues. To the politicians and the press, it is time to take a hard look at our issues and do something. Do not give us rhetoric, hollow promises and charismatic unrelated speeches. Each candidate wants to be the “leader of the free world.” That is all good and fine, but do they truly understand the meaning of the word “leader?” It may not be the person who can give the greatest speeches, the person who is considered more relevant and hip, or the person who looks most “Presidential.” Leadership is having a vision, turning that vision into reality and inspiring your followers to join you for this journey. It is about making decisions that may not always be perceived as popular even though it may be the right thing to do. Leaders also know that success can only be achieved by solving real problems.
Democracy is a beautiful thing, as we are allowed freedoms to think and say what we feel. I am thankful that I live in a country where we have a living, breathing democracy and individuals who have the passion to become an active participant in our political process. What I am looking for in our government is someone who understands the true meaning of leadership. I am looking for people who not only want to be involved and make a difference but also make a difference where it is critically important. Four more years, mirroring the last eight, is something the country and the world cannot handle with the current economic woes. What do you think would happen if someone called out the United States on its debt? The lowering of our rating created a negative ripple effect felt all over the world. Have we not learned anything from our previous mistakes?
I propose a challenge to both President Obama and Mr. Romney. Show us true leadership by clearly articulating your vision and plan while staying on message. Would you accept this leadership challenge?