"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 27,2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Leadership Series: What Good Leaders Do and Do Not Do

Previously we wrote about our responsibility in attracting good leaders. The essence of that essay was, they are all over the place but we have to show them that we will follow their leadership; not ask them what they can do for us. Leaders don’t want to be charitable foundation benefactors. They want to bring their skills to problems; they want to examine, analyze and choose from the alternatives; they want to set goals and give themselves a bit of margin for error and then they want to get the job done. If they get the job done; good leaders want very little else. Maybe a thank you. A kiss or a hug from a loved one (in private; not in front of a campaign donating audience) and some privacy for their private lives.

This essay is about how to tell a good leader by the things he/she does and does not do.

What good leaders do and do not do:

1. They don’t write books that make them look good and that enrich them. They let historians write history books. Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, required a one hundred year waiting period before publishing his autobiography.  As a matter of fact, a good leader might write his/her memoirs but if it covers a period of public service when they were paid as a public employee, they would turn any monies received over to their employer who happens to be the taxpayer. They would also postpone publication for at least ten years.

2. They don’t establish foundations with their names prominently displayed on the door. Again, much the same issue. If they had a private life, let them do as they see fit. If they take a public paycheck, they owe any receipts based on that service to their employer – the taxpayer.

3. Examples: Al Gore lost; he made a movie about global warming and lots of people paid to see it. Okay.  It may be patent nonsense but it's OK.

4. Examples: Bill Clinton: earned a lot of public paychecks. Then earns a small fortune based on his public employment. Small fortune is not based on his private activities; it’s based on his public employment. Monies are due the taxpayer. But that is not the law. So, what does a real leader do? He turns it over to the taxpayer and gets a real job. Where’s the money Bill?  Ditto for fellows like Rudy Giuliani and Tony Blair.

5. Leaders do not blame the situation they wanted to manage on their predecessor. They sought out the job! If there are problems that continue from the predecessor they make changes and explain why they did what they did and why the changes will make a measurable improvement. And then they move on and accept responsibility for everything that follows. When you encounter a person or a group of people who blame others for things, past or current events, you have all you need to have to know that you are dealing with losers. You have prima facie evidence that the blamers will never take responsibility; never be accountable and never show any real evidence of leadership. If you stick by them, you know that you are sticking by a loser.

6. Leaders constantly accept responsibility. They make it a point to say that this is what they are doing and why. They do not find someone who disagrees with them and blame the unacceptance of their ideas on those who see the situation or world differently.

7. They do not use teleprompters when giving a speech. As a matter of fact, they make their speeches very brief because they know what they need to say; they say it concisely; they set out their goals against which progress or failure will be measured and they will succinctly report back when progress is either achieved or not. They don’t need a teleprompter because they know what they’re saying!

8. Good leaders do not buy votes or supporters or watch polls that measure their popularity. They analyze issues, they consider alternatives, they measure consequences – intended and otherwise; they decide and watch what happens carefully and if they see that they made a mistake or that what they choose is not working out, they make changes fast and they own up to the mistake.

9. They do not offer things. For example, they do not say you have a right to health care or a right to food stamps or unemployment benefits, etc. They do say you have a responsibility to get an education; obey the law; get a job; pay your bills and marry the woman you impregnate. They also tell you to educate your child which means you help them with and make sure they do their homework; you attend their school meetings and you come home sober after work.

10. Good leaders step down. They do not stick around because they have either nothing to do; no alternative or they just like the trappings of power and the public attention. They are busy people. They get out of town. They go home and go back to their real life job.

11. Example: GWBush does not keep showing up, yapping and criticizing his successor even though his successor cannot stop blaming him for everything bad.

12. Good leaders do not set up theoretical and hypothetical measurements that cannot be objectively determined. Good leaders do not spend hundreds of billions of dollars on activities that cannot be measured such as “jobs saved” or “jobs created” when the overall jobs number is either flat or declining. If you can’t measure the results of the program do not fund the program. Good leaders know this simple truth.

13. Trust. Leaders do not repeat old nonsense about how the world used to be. If someone wants to kill you, they say, let’s kill em first. They do not let bad guys into the country because we are free and we want our principles to be honored. Safety and survivability precede principles. Leaders speak honestly about issues; they face facts and they build trust. They deal with reality; not theory. Leave the latter to the theoretical physicists and the Sunday preachers.

14. Bad leaders speak with forked tongues. Speak one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience. Always look good. Always be right. Be above the fray. Talk a good game. Blame the other guy. All examples of forked tongue syndrome. Forked tongue syndrome in now an epidemic among the tenured members of PIP and POOP.   PIP and POOP are infested with bad leaders. 

We’re sure you can think of even more situations and examples of what good leaders do and do not do. Remember, all it takes is one or two good leaders to correct the failings of hundreds of bad leaders. Let’s get moving America. One or two good leaders will correct the decades of bad leaders we have chosen. America, stop choosing bad leaders.


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