A Must for All Seasons: Principled Leadership
October 24, 2004
Ronald Reagan said it well: "America needs principled leaders, not labels. A leader, once convinced a particular course of action is the right one, must have the determination to stick with it and be undaunted when the going gets tough. "
During the past month or two we have heard much spoken about principled leadership. And even more importantly, we have seen through the years and certainly currently, great portraits of the best of such leadership and disturbing displays of the absence of such. George W. Bush said recently, "Government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives. I believe this Nation wants steady, consistent, principled leadership." And Senator John F. Kerry said "It is time for 'better' leadership to assume the White House." Just what is meant by "better" is yet to be defined.
If ever there was a time for principled leadership to be front and center from those in government, at all levels, now is that time! And these principles are the bedrock of our representative democracy. The responsibilities and duties each of us face as Americans are different, but the core founding values of our nation are not different. The modesty of true strength and the humility of genuine greatness are at the heart and at the center of gravity for the American people. And this is the fundamental strength of our great nation.
The productivity and ingenuity of Americans everywhere is the envy of the world. American innovation and productivity is leading the way in this information age. And new technology speeds an exchange of ideas that often bear the mark of American inspiration. Few nations in history have been granted such a singular opportunity to help shape the future of so many people around the world. And principled leadership is desperately needed in all aspects of American life. And it begins right where we are... in our homeland, in our rural areas, small town communities, and in our cities and megalopolis urban areas. It is imperative that it presides in local municipal government settings and on local school boards, county agencies and state government operations. And clearly principled leadership is an essential ingredient at all levels of federal government...administrative, legislative and judicial.
We see evidence of an American public in a quandary over who represents best those underpinnings of principled leadership. There are those who question if they can trust those who put themselves forward as ethical leaders or those "want to be leaders." In honest reflection, we cherish an inner desire for competent leaders who display moral rectitude. We believe that is not only a desire, but we believe that it is fundamental to all that is good and right and proper in our great nation. The desire and expectation for ethical driven leaders is too often crushed by those who present themselves as such, but often fall to less principled forces as a means of self-centeredness, self preservation, self aggrandizement or personal ego. And thus, they prove to have a reckless disregard for consistent principled action.
As we see it, principled leadership is influence guided by core beliefs and virtues that mobilize people to accomplish a mission and a vision. A principled leader does NOT shirk from responsibility. In the words of Winston Churchill: "Someone has to take responsibility, I will." This leadership requires solid character, sound competence and genuine commitment that is coherent with one's core beliefs and virtues. It is this alignment which gives rise to one's trustworthiness. And core beliefs define what is fundamentally true, important and right. And virtues are the standards against which ethical behavior is measured. In short, principled leaders concentrate on doing the right thing. Senator John McCain said it well: "What we need in a leader is one who can make the tough decisions and a resolve to stick with them. Some call it stubbornness; I call it principled leadership."
Sustained excellence in principled leadership, at all levels, from the trusteeship in a small community to the greatest office in the land requires adherence to ethical values and determined perseverance. These core values are the touchstones for leading and the ethical lodestars for action. It is by firmly holding to one's principles, and acting on one's convictions that one earns the right to lead. For principled leaders concentrate on doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do and that is one thing for all voters to consider on Tuesday, November 2. That is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.