October 1, 2013
The government is officially shut down.
Ideology, it seems, has replaced leadership.
Name calling and figure pointing has replaced governing.
Like many I feel both disgusted and sad.
But, it has forced me to be more clear about my understanding of leadership.
Here is what I mean.
Are elected officials at any level elected to represent constituents or are they elected to lead? It is a critical question. On one level the answer is yes. Elected officials are elected both to represent and to lead. But, what appears to have happened, whether due to gerrymandered districts or polarized politics or the fact that the campaign for the next election begins the day after one has been elected, is that representing constituents has become more important than leading which is the exact opposite of what we need right now.
On a very small scale, here is an example of what I mean.
Years ago I ran for and was elected to our local school board. Much of the business was fairly routine, but every so often an issue would come before the board on which I had to vote which pitted what was best for my two children against what was best for the entire school system or the entire community.
Leadership, I think, requires both the ability and the courage to look beyond the particular focus or concerns or views of constituents and to do one’s best to see and to move towards what is best for the whole.
Leadership requires a commitment to the common good.
It requires being able to say the best way forward may not by my way forward.
It requires being able to say Yes when others are shouting No or No when others are shouting Yes.
Leadership means risking one’s job in order to be a leader.
It is what we desperately need right now.
But do not have.