7/02/2015

Defining Leadership

"There goes my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader." Mahatma Gandhi or "I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?" Benjamin Disraeli

In the last six years, President Obama has been beat up quite a lot for his “lack of leadership.” Most of the beating comes from the Fox News crowd, so it is unclear what their definition of “leadership” might be. Having been a middle manager a few too many times, upper management a couple of times, and being stuck in meetings with people who made far more money than any human could possibly be worth way too many times, I’m not much of a believer in what most pundits and other non-working-and-never-had-a-real-job experts call “leadership.” Stupid people will follow any loud voice off of the nearest cliff, but society, science, or accomplishment is never achieved by stupid people. Practically any piece of human excrement can filter to the top of a military organizational chart and for the less-than-average intelligence sorts a fancy jacket and hat and lots of merit badges qualifies as evidence of leadership. Being anointed with a leadership position does not prove that one is, in fact, a leader. The bankster CEO history has pretty much proved that repeatedly in the last 200 years. Even Forbes Magazine, a leadership worshiping machine if there ever was one, has a list of incompetent CEOs.

I think the modern American myth and value of leadership is mostly about avoiding responsibility, as a society, or intentionally as in convincing the 99% that there is nothing they can do about the rape and pillaging of their country and assets. The fact is that in every moment in history when a “great leader” arose, there were a lot of great (or greater) “followers” involved. You can not lead sheep into battle, but wolves are a whole ‘nother issue. In our country’s past, we’ve been blessed with a few defining moments when the general population was fed up with the status quo and looking for a representative to “lead” the country in a new direction. The two Roosevelt’s were great examples of those times and the population being led. Teddy took over the country in 1901, after the country had suffered for years from the 1893 Great Depression and the following mediocre recovery. Populist and socialist sentiment was high and the ruling class were under constant revolutionary threat, so Roosevelt had the popular support and activist backing to move the country forward several great steps. Franklin Roosevelt took office after several years of Republican mismangement caused the second Great Depression and banksters had destroyed the world economy leading to the rise of Italy, Spain, Japan, and Germany’s fascist political parties. The United States had its equivalent fascist movement, but the populist and socialist movements were stronger (lucky for us) and Roosevelt rode that strong wave to the Presidency (Three times, inspiring Repuglicans to write the 22nd amendment so they’d never be out of power again.) and outside of the really stupid states crushed the Republican party for almost two decades.

"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." Theodore Roosevelt

"It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership." Nelson Mandela

Traditional leaders knew they were no rare commodity and until modern warfare changed leadership to bureaucracy, leaders led the charge into hazards. There was a reason their soldiers “followed” them. It’s hard to take any modern political leader seriously, since their motto for four generations has been “I’d love to go with you, but they need me here.”

"Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership." Colin Powell

Most CEOs think the company and it’s employees are there to serve their whims. They have aids, subordinates, VPs, CFOs, COOs, and a collection of sycophants who don’t contradict the Fearless Leader or offer the slightest contradiction to his most insane “insights” or product or promotional insanities. Not only are they afraid to open their mouths, they’ve been selected to say “yes” and nod approvingly. That’s pretty much it for their business skills. That sort of mismanagement can’t really solve problems, but they can sure create some.

"A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together." Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Creating and maintaining teams is the hardest of all leadership tasks. Most of the people who want to hold the big corner offices wouldn’t recognize a team if one trampled them to death. In my experience, most teams are “built” by accident, not by management’s design. When a group of people with disparate but complimentary skills happen to form, the real leadership skill is finding ways to hold that unlikely combination together. Most management people are jealous of competence in any form, but terrified of group competence since it pretty much eliminates the illusion of leadership necessity. Regardless of the profitability, invention, or strength the team provides the organization, most managers will do almost anything to tear the team apart and return the organization to the dysfunction that appears to require a leader. I’ve lucked into participating in three excellent, productive teams in my career and all three were unintentionally and incompetently or intentionally and jealously destroyed by upper management. Each of those teams were responsible for the products that sustained the companies for several years after the teams dissolved and none of those businesses ever again managed to assemble similar groups or equally successful products.

"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership." John Kenneth Galbraith

In President Obama’s case, Galbraith’s requirement would demand that the country have a couple dozen Presidents because our nation is full of major anxieties. We may be the most fearful, most conservative nation in human history. Likewise, most incompetently managed businesses are overwhelmed with anxiety. Applying Pareto analysis to focus the organization’s attention on the most important anxiety might help, but the organization would have to be functional and sentient enough to comprehend the analysis. 21st Century United States is as terrified of mathematics and logic as it is of its “black” President. The intellectual requirement for citizenship is beyond the capacity of far too many of our citizens. The intellectual requirement for being led is equally unobtainable. Too many Americans do not want a President, they want a king or a dictator. Neither of those are leaders.

"A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd." Max Lucado

President Obama has done a fair job of that. All of his administration’s accomplishments have been achieved without the assistance of Congress, the Extreme Court, much of the military, federal and state law enforcement, or popular support. In the eyes of the world, President Obama was a game-changer. In the eyes of his fellow Americans, he is either a hero, a sell-out, or the anti-Christ. However, some of the crowd is treasonous and vicious. That group should be brought down with the full force of the law. Obama does not have the support of too much of the military, law enforcement, or even the federal government. Those groups are completely committed to pursuing the interests of the nation’s ruling class and the last thing they are likely to support would be a democratically elected President. As traitors and carpetbaggers, these groups are completely committed to demolishing what Washington called “our great experiment” in democracy and self-rule.

"Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal." Vince Lombardi

“Work” is a four letter word and a concept with which our ruling class has no familiarity. Characters like G.W. Bush and his siblings, Willard Romney and his brood, Donny Trump, and the rest of the 2015 Republican clown car have not “worked” a day in their lives. Romney made his money leveraging other people’s money and work. Bush is a “consultant” who gets paid for access and connections. One of his big money clients was the notorious Lehman Brothers “investment” firm, one of the groups responsible for crashing the world’s economy in 2007. If you don’t believe they paid Jeb big money to help them get a bailout from Jeb’s little brother, the President, you are too dumb to be led anywhere but over a cliff. And a leash would be required even for that minor task. People who have never worked at any real task are incapable of providing leadership to people who do work. President Obama’s academic and social work record is open for even the dullest reader to analyze. His accomplishments as a community organizer, author, lawyer, and Senator dwarf those of the entire Republican party. Likewise, the most effective leaders in American business history have been hands-on scientists, engineers, technicians, farmers, doctors, lawyers, skilled tradesmen, and even a few lawyers. The spoiled children of the wealthy elite are only occasionally endowed with a work and service ethic (Teddy Roosevelt, for example) that makes them worthy of leadership roles. Assuming otherwise, is the kind of thinking that creates an inbred royalty class.

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