By John R. Stone
If you Google leadership the definition that comes up first is: “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.”
The definition creates some interesting issues when one thinks of elected leaders.
On one hand we elect people to represent us on the school board, city commission, town board, county commission, state legislature and U.S. House of Representatives and finally, the Presidency of the United States.
On the other hand we expect these people to make sure that government staff people do the best job possible of running the government that is their employer so that it can meet its responsibilities.
So there can be a conflict when what people want may not be the best for the governing unit as a whole.
The temptation of some elected people is to blow with the wind of the voters to insure reelection the next time those voters go to the polls.
But what if the voters are wrong? What if what they want is really not in the best interest of that level of government in the long run?
In my humble opinion, that’s where the elected person must take the time and effort to explain why a certain action might not be in the best of the interest of that governing unit so that the voters can understand the issue better.
The elected person should be able to explain to voters the pros and cons of an action or proposed action and should make an effort to reach out and do so, not merely answer questions people ask.
We often elect people to elective positions because we might like one stand they have on an issue, or because they are a member or are endorsed by a political party or political action group.
Sometimes we elect people because they are the loudest voices in the room and we think putting them in office will result in change. They will pound some sense into other officeholders. I call them flamethrowers.
The simple fact of the matter is that one officeholder cannot enact much change on his or her own. Usually an officeholder needs the support of a majority fellow members of the board, commission, legislature or congress to which he or she has been elected.
Flamethrowers will manage to offend enough people by name calling or misrepresenting issues or facts that there will not be much support for that person’s agenda. But they often get reelected because we think they are doing something.
Often it is the quiet people in the room who build credibility with their colleagues who get the most done with their knowledge of issues, lack of drama and lack of ego.
When it comes to explainers, President Bill Clinton was among the best. He was very good at explaining the complexity of various issues. Personally I didn’t like Clinton because of his womanizing; in fact, I wrote an editorial saying he should resign after the Monica Lewinsky affair.
But Clinton worked with members of both parties to get legislation through. And, at the end of his second term, the United States budget had a surplus rather than a deficit. That hasn’t happened since no matter what party was in the White House.
There are plenty of issues to deal with at all levels of government. The solutions to those issues are sometimes complex. We need to hear the best answer for the country as a whole, not just the person’s political party or the person’s big donors.
We as voters need to listen, understand and consider what is the best solution for our nation and support candidates for office who will work toward those ends.
We need real, honest leaders. And it starts with us. If we don’t vote for real leaders we’re doomed to continuing the current mess of not addressing any issues in a serious way.