IS THERE A DEFICIT IN LEADERSHIP?

There are many in America who feel unsafe during these uncertain times. Terrorism is real and Americans know it. Little has been done to assuage their fears. Indeed, there are many in America who are fearful for themselves and for their family!

And then too, Americans are increasingly restive over the state of our national economic situation. People are deeply concerned over the tepid recovery of the American economy when our Nation is borrowing eight trillion dollars a year. That is more than forty cents on a dollar, and we are borrowing most of it from the troubled economy of China. Accordingly, Americans are sending this devastating debt bill to our children and grandchildren. In short, we are living off of our future.

These are matters of great concern. The state of homeland security, the economy, and the future of our children are on the minds of many Americans. Americans are searching for and eager for strategic leadership. Our current leadership appears to be out of sync with the dire concerns of the American public. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, 75% of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed, and 69% are angry with the way things are going in the U.S. Authentic moral leadership is desperately needed.

The State of the Union, the State of the State, and the state of our local communities are tied directly to the quality of moral leadership in each domain. It is central to the health and vibrancy of this great land of ours.

One significant and fascinating truth we have discovered is that LEADERSHIP is LEADERSHIP wherever you go and whenever you go there. Times change, cultures change, life styles change but the principles of leadership appear to remain constant. This is true when looking at ancient OR modern cultures, municipal AND business affairs, and in school OR friendship groups. Basic leadership principles have stood the test of time.

There are those who foolishly believe that with a title of authority, one would then be seen as the leader. But that is just not so. Leadership is not about one's title as much as it is based upon who you are as a person and the capabilities you demonstrate. A leader, that is a POSITIONAL leader, may be appointed or elected but holding that title does NOT a leader make. Leadership is earned; it cannot be conferred, or mandated or inherited. The only advantage a title can buy is a little time; but that is where it ends. Time will either increase one's level of influence with others, or one will loose it. The test of leadership influence is not where you "start out," but where you "end up."

There are many fine leaders today and history points to many fine leaders of the past. John C. Maxwell and others have suggested several key leadership principles that one can use as a conceptual guide. For the purpose of this column, I point to five what we will call "well recognized leaders." One only needs to examine history to see the leadership qualities of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. In their case, it is not the titled position that makes the leader; but rather, the leader makes the position. It has been said, "champions do not become champions in the ring-they are merely discovered there." True leaders demonstrate conclusively that character makes trust possible, and trust makes leadership possible. One of the great strengths of these four is, and it is true of other great leaders, that one must first touch the hearts of the people. There are those who may say "that is nonsense." But we believe it is BASIC. Effective leaders know that you first have to touch people's hearts and reason before you ask them for their hand. This is the law of connection. All great communicators recognize this truth and act on it almost instinctively. You can't move people to action unless you first move them with valued reasoning. People will follow worthy leaders who promote worthy causes. And so it was with Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan, Churchill and Thatcher. Agree with them or not, there is a legacy under their leadership. People will follow, when they know in their heart and mind, that it is the right thing to do and therein lies the durability of effective leadership.

In the final analysis, history has taught us that one's ability as a leader will be judged by how will one filled the level of expectation others had of the individual when first selected. And ultimately, effectiveness will be gauged by the worthy legacy of their service, and their service as a model. Margaret Thatcher had it right when in her eulogy for Ronald Reagan: "We here still move in the twilight. But we have one beacon to guide us that Ronald Reagan never had. We have his EXAMPLE." Candidates for the Presidency of the United States can learn much from history. History is a great teacher. Indeed, our past serves to illuminate our future.