We learn by doing, by watching, by experimenting, and finally by some type of reflection or reinforcement. Then what happens when the senior leaders (military, corporate and political) set a bad example especially when our society, our culture define them as successful?
Now, believe me this is not a political blog. My blog deals with leadership and how to develop and nurture adaptability; but, I cannot hold my tongue as I continue to watch our political candidates for President of the United States “pander” to the voters-telling them what they want to hear vice what they need to hear. I also believing in using real-world examples in how to or not how to develop leaders.
I find this disturbing. While not a “chicken little the sky is falling,’ I am a realist, a obsessive reader of other disciplines (which may influence leadership) as well as constantly asking why?
Why does our nation face catastrophic issues, with energy, food, overpopulation that are now impacting our standard of living, security and thus our freedom under the Constitution. But it seems the nation, through the media, is more concerned with a lapel pin a candidate is wearing or what Paris Hilton or Britney Spears is up too. On top of that, while the economy is listed by many voters as the number one priority, it appears that no one gets to the causes and then the hard to hear fixes, the latest example is the “gas tax holiday.” Instead of telling people that we are somewhere on the verge of “oil peaking”(see Fabius Maximus’s great analysis of this), that demand is climbing dramatically due to growing economies and populations, the politicians focus on trying to keep the price low for the short term instead of how to fix the issue for the long term.
I saw a political cartoon on Monday that said it well. It was a picture of a political candidate, none in particular, but at the podium saying “We have some hard issues that our nation face, and it is going to take some tough decisions that will cause sacrifices, but it will make us stronger in the long term.” Below the caption and the candidate was a small profile of a person in the crowd saying “would we vote for someone this blunt and honest.” And someone else replied, “yes.”
I hope this is true, and not a rerun of what occurred in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter had the moral courage (a key component of strength of character) to tell the American people that we had to change our habits in regards to our addiction to foreign oil. It took a lot for a strategic leader to say this, and provide a course of action. But, there was a huge backlash through the corporate controlled media that people did not want to be told how to live their lives. Today’s politicians have paid heed too, and that is why I call them “cheerleaders.” Of course, this only went along with other issues Carter had to deal with like a sagging economy and the Iran hostage crisis.
The sad fact is that in no time in history has more information been available, along with the right type of people and the technology to solve our biggest issues. But it continually seems that ideology trumps intelligence, or greed trumps intelligence.
Before you have adaptability, you must have strength of character.
Below are questions that I will address as part of leader and adaptability development over the next few weeks.
Why is almost everyone lacking strength of character?
What happened to everyone, where did they go all of a sudden?
Is political correctness the new rule, is that the reason for this lack of strength of character?
If it is, well I say that is no excuse, rather it is a reason to press on, take some hits, tell it like it is and move the ball down the field for the common good, using reality as your guide. Can you look yourself in the mirror every day because you did something that went beyond yourself, something you did for others that was positive?
Why then did everyone turn off, stop caring and why are they setting for a life of mediocrity?
We can do better than this really; how so you ask?
The establishing guide, objective, goal, cornerstone and the foundation to any institution, organization or individual that develops leadership has to be developing leaders of character.
Here is my favorite definition of strength of character-“A leader that seeks out responsibility and has a fondness for responsiblity as well as the making and standing by their decisions in the face of the enemy, peers and superiors.”
This was a subject I revisit daily with myself (am I doing the right things?, setting the example?) and with my students (how to develop their strength of character and moral courage? what good examples can I give or show them to continue their development?).
One of the tools (among many in the adaptive leader methodology) that I use to help develop character is TDGs. In February 2006 Performance Improvement magazine, I published an article “From Swift to Swiss: Tactical Decision Games and their place in Military Education and Performance Improvement.” In TDGs students would have to demonstrate their character by justifying and defending their decisions in the face of their peers (other students) and superiors (teacher). This is just one, but an effective tool when facilitated correctly to build strength of character in our emerging young leaders.
I don’t know what the solution is to switch our senior leaders from “cheer leaders” back to making tough decisions and then communicating them to the rest of us. I know I would follow them if they did. Hopefully, my fellow citizens will wake up soon, and start demanding leaders of character.