One definition of a leader is…
A person who by force of example, talents, or other qualities plays a directing role, wields commanding influence, or has a following in any sphere of activity or thought
One flaw with this definition is that this person could have a following merely BECAUSE he has been anointed as a “leader,” even if he were to have no other qualities whatsoever. And, this is just one more example of the reversal of cause and effect, but I digress.
To achieve great heights in a large company, institution, government agency, or elected office usually means that the individual in question has figured out how to get along with most people, effect compromise wherever possible, brownnose when he has to, and take few chances, to avoid making a mistake. More than that, he has determined how to receive credit for the good things he has not done, and how to avoid blame for the bad things he has done.
As you can see, nothing in the preceding paragraph denotes any sort of true leadership quality.
If self-promotion is vitally important to this type of faux leader, it is probably also important to some extent for a true leader—the difference being that in the case of the latter, he would actually have some real accomplishments to tout.
While examples of miserable faux leadership abound in the private sector, let us confine ourselves to elected officials in this essay.
What if you, as a successful person, wanted to run for Congress. Let’s even assume that you are in a district (such as the one where I reside) that has a long-term scandalously incompetent incumbent.
If you were to approach the local party management, they would first tell you that your cause is lost. The district has been gerrymandered to assure constant victories by the other side. Ironically, a true leader would then simply reply with something like, “Then why are you here?” This, of course, would end the discussion.
Perhaps, you could keep your mouth shut (already giving in) and describe your ideas for a unique campaign to unseat the useless incumbent. You might explain that conventional approaches are never going to work in this district. Indeed, the only way to change voter’s minds is to gently attack them:
Why do you keep reelecting Mr. X., who has done these lousy things over the past many years? What is wrong with you?
Logically, this would seem to be a sound strategy. Clearly, “positive” approaches have not worked. And, we all know that one definition of insanity is to keep repeating acts that do not bring about the desired results.
However, you would be rebuffed at once. Indeed, I had a discussion with a former (conservative) senator along these lines, who implied that to play the Dutch uncle role would create nothing but bad press. I guess my attitude shone through when I replied, questioning why anyone should care what these predominantly left-leaning sycophants and sheep think—presuming that they even think at all.
The good senator did not realize that I was not trying to be provocative. Rather, I was trying to articulate the beginning of a new strategy that just might tip the balance in our favor. And then, it dawned on me: To maintain the same losing strategy revealed more than just a lack of innovation. It betrayed that much of what goes on in politics and government is a game.
The prize in the game is power, and power is increased only by creating more ways to spend your money. This is all exacerbated by having longer and longer term incumbents who become more isolated from the realities of your lives. Evidently, the balance of power is largely predetermined by feckless compromise.
The only course that would even approach a solution is term limits, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Still, that would be an inspirational constitutional amendment, wouldn’t it?