Wherever I go on my book tour, one of the most pressing questions I get is this one: How can we find the leaders we seek? People’s disgust with the quality of leadership in the country, and in their local communities, is palpable and deep. What can we do? First off, I am always quick to say that our leaders in Washington, D.C., will not the lead the way forward. In fact, I believe they will be the last ones to join in building improved conditions in public life and politics. They are too mired in their acrimonious and divisive ways; and they are too concerned with pursuing their own personal agendas, personal interests, and personal vendettas. I believe they can hardly see their way clearly to alternate paths in public life and politics.
But I am equally quick to ask the following question of the rest of us: How well do we support the good leaders in our communities? For instance, how often, when a leader comes under fire, do we:
- Step forward to literally stand beside the individual and vouch for their integrity, even when we do not agree with a particular position?
- Step forward to say clearly that the individual leader is a good person, and that we and others will not stand for scurrilous and mean-spirited attacks against them?
- Step forward to praise an individual leader for taking a tough-minded and principled stand – whether we agree with them or not?
If we want better leaders, then we must exert our own kind of leadership. Only then will the quality of leadership improve. Those of us of good will must step forward to actively and visibly stand beside people of good judgment. We must let our voices and our views be known to others, so that we can put on notice those people who operate through fear and intimidation. Too many of our good leaders are left standing alone naked in the public square just at the moment when they need us most to stand beside them and vouch for their worthiness. If we want good leaders, then we must vow not to abandon them, and instead find ways to show our support. Our desire for good leadership will require us to act.
So, please, take the test: What leaders do you stand beside?