The Leadership Thread

Recently, I have noticed that good leadership has become an increasingly scarce commodity. I realize that this may be a byproduct of our media being less protective of our public servants here in the United States and elsewhere. But, in general, there just seems to be a much smaller supply of people who are able to provide the sort of presence and charisma required to rally the masses (in a sane sort of manner).

I do not think that this is due to an increase in the overall qualification of individual people to lead themselves. Nor do I believe that the various media provide such an increased degree of information that people no longer require leadership to such an extent as they did in the past. Today, people almost seem to have a more difficult time thinking for themselves than even in the recent past.

Too often, I see companies that are literally adrift without a firm hand on the tiller. I have witnessed many families where the parents have nigh well abdicated their role as mentors to their children (my own, for instance). Has self-absorption become so endemic as to preclude the existence of this particular species of individual anymore?

One of the key ingredients of good oversight is leadership by example. As someone who has led work crews and the like, I have always made it a point of never asking anyone to do a job that I would not perform myself. Currently, the prerogatives of position almost seem to dictate that a demonstration of power requires forcing someone to abase or degrade themselves as testimony to the puissance of whomever wields such authority.

Have our leaders become such hollow people? Have the chieftains of business devolved into so many bullies? It sure seems that way, these days. Too often I hear only of politically motivated people who operate with almost total disregard for their own reputation if there is a modicum of power or wealth to be obtained. It seems as though honor is no longer a valued currency in our society.

What are the core components of leadership and how and why have they devolved into these sub-adolescent levels of petty tyranny and infighting? To reiterate the basic outline of leadership:

[li] Leadership by example.[/li]
[li] Elevation, not degradation of the individual.[/li]
[li] Credit given where credit is due.[/li]
[li] Recognition of individual excellence.[/li]
[li] Opportunity for advancement based on merit.[/li]
[li] Reward for ethical conduct not based on profit.[/li]
[li] Stewardship of resources and skills.[/li]
[li] Incorporation of art in productivity.[/li]Please feel free to debate these components. I list them as a framework to establish some sort of starting point in this discussion. I am merely appalled at what passes for leadership these days and wonder where things went off of the rails.

That is a very nice list and I wouldn’t want to argue with it, but it seems to me that it was about the time these kinds of lists became popular, that the true leaders disappeared. Why not have someone take a leader of the past and see how he meets your criteria, say for Winston Churchill or FDR.

This is probably best suited for “Great Debates.” Here it goes… Jill

Thanks Jill, I debated posting it here myself, before submitting this one.

>A leader can explain the “vision” ie: why we are here doing whatevershitwearesupposedtodo…

>A leader can help other team members envision what their particular role is in achieving the group vision ie: I am not going to dictate what you are supposed to do…we hired you because we think you have the skills to get it done, however we are here to help clarify what you do into the big picture or our vision.

> A leader listens to team members as much, if not more, than “leading” or barking out orders.

> A leader fights off the barbarians at the gates in order for your to do what you are supposed to do.

> A leader listens to those outside the team to see how well our vision matches with the outside world.

So, in a few words, a leader is the keeper of the flame, the roundup cowboy, the father/mother confessor, the defender, the reality checker.

It’s my impression [from the little bit of history that I know and personal experience] that good leadership is a rare find. I have only work twice with I would call remarkable leaders in the true sense of the word. History is overpopulated with village idiots who have wrecked havoc over the common folk. It is extremely rare to have world class leaders [like the leaders of the American Revolution] who were able to remodel a political system such as ours - worts and all. Today’s American “leadership” such as the Bush Administration, the Republicans like Lott, Armey etc and the Supreme Court are enough to make me retch. I’m not too pleased with the Democrats as well…

Try this site… some interesting reading on the subject (big subject).

I think there are good leaders in business and politics, but leadership qualities are quite often not those which are fully valued outside of a crisis. In politics, the ability to model the popular perception of the leader the “people” want is what gets someone elected; true leadership skills are not really tested by the campaign process. In business, quick and decisive changes in response to business conditions are met with fear and distrust by stockholders; this doesn’t preclude skilled chairmanship, but it certainly requires that leadership be combined with diplomacy and marketing skills, which are in more abundant supply.

Also, if there is a “scarcity” of leadership in this country, I think it has as much to do with the devaluation of citizenship as it does with any political failings. We have a more and more mobile and disparate national society; fewer people have strong ties to geographic -as opposed to cultural, business or hobby/gaming/internet- communities than in the past, which possibly leads to less involvement with (and attention to) congressional representatives.


For the past several years, I’ve had a sheet with two lists posted on my office wall. They are the USMC code of conduct and the US Naval Academy guiding principles. The USMC code addresses the qualities of a sterling team member, and the USN principles are those of the ideal team leader. Both sets of qualities need to be understood and embraced by any good leader.

USMC[ol][li]Tell the truth.[]Do your best no matter how trivial the task.[]Choose the difficult right over the easy wrong.[]Look out for the group before you look out for yourself.[]Don’t whine or make excuses.[]Judge others by their actions, not their race or reputation.[/list=1][/li]USN Academy[list=1][]Be a person of integrity.[]Lead by example (meet the standards you hold others to).[]Strive for excellence without arrogance.[]Do your best.[]Treat everyone with dignity and respect.[]Tolerate hones mistakes from people who are doing their best.[]Speak well of others (gossip undermines human dignity).[]Seek the truth (rumors and unverified anecdotes undermine morale).[]Keep a sense of humor and be able to laugh at yourself.[/ol]