My columns for the past year have revolved around the definition and conduct of leadership. There is no greater title, there is no greater honor than to accept the trust of others and be defined as their leader.
Leadership is the process of creating vision, communicating that
vision to others and motivating them to act on that vision. If vision is
to take and eventually become disillusioned with the leader.
Consider this when you vote: there is no value more important than trust. Can you trust the leader to act on his or her stated vision? After all, leaders expect their followers to physically act on that vision. Followers inherently trust that if they stand up and commit actions to support the leader’s idea or vision, when the going gets tough they will not stand alone. What if the leader’s positions change?
Constantly altering or changing a proclaimed idea or vision is not an acceptable method of leadership. Undependable leadership is most noticeable in athletics or the military services. When a leader is selected, teammates must trust that the leader will follow through and be consistent on their idea or command. The results in athletic competition or on the battlefield are immediately known. Unfortunately, erratic or popularity-based leadership in the military can cost lives.
Leaders must have the personal integrity to stand by and for stated beliefs. In political discourse, commitment to an idea or position is often eliminated to captivate popularity. We know in our personal system of values this is not acceptable. But the political culture seems to have a moral exemption. If a business makes a false claim or tells a lie in advertisement, that company can be sued or held legally liable by the justice system. The political process is replete with absolute false statements that in a business context would be defined as criminal. There is an amazing lack of accountability.
Core values of integrity based leadership seldom change. It is quite possible, however, that circumstance can change in the presence of new information. In those situations we want leaders to reconsider their position. But followers recognize weakness of character and inconsistency when the sole pursuit of popularity alters positions.
However disturbing, some followers with a deep and overriding emotional and personal attachment are unconcerned with a leader’s migrating character of conviction amidst the short-term perspective of an election. It is as if a personal and self-ascribed political label is at stake. The psychological definition is "group think." Members of the group individually realize that there is a lack of integrity. They assume everyone else in the group is aware and condones the actions thus implying that the group rationally justifies the end with the means. They capitulate for the moment but return to their personal moral core many months later.
Leaders of course must compromise—it is a statesmen act of governing. But vacillating leaders do not survive if they compromise with everyone in the room. The process of saying anything to anyone to gain popularity eventually erodes the trust of a broad base constituency and dramatically affects the ability to govern. Followers eventually become suspicious and will not publicly support a position that they believe will immediately change based on the political convenience of the day.
Excellent leadership is evaluated much the same as a parent, coach, business vendor or a trusted friend—a compilation of many years of service. Even if one disagrees with a philosophical opponent there is respect and admiration for a consistent solid core. Consistency and the integrity of position, even in opposition, become apparent. Leadership core values are publicly tested when an ally deviates from reason and says something reprehensible. Does he or she rise to a higher and personal moral ground or divert the issue in word games?
Words and deeds are always interpreted by followers although not publicly discussed. Inherent in the role of follower is action based on the trust of a personal commitment of the leader to act on what they stand for, how their positions evolve or how those positions are abandoned.
As you vote, interpret that vote as a ballot of trust: "I trust you to do what you say you're going to do." Do that for the greater good and for the community. It is what a citizen does. That is in no way naïve. I realize how vulnerable and eventually disheartened we can become when we place our trust in someone's position only to see it abandoned the next week.
However, I believe that educated people make decisions based on intellect rather than emotion. They choose wisely. What other course can we choose but to expect the people for whom we vote to honor our personal integrity and trust.