Leadership is a privilege. I think our society by and large has forgotten that. Too many of the leaders I’ve encountered in my adult life treat leadership as a right, or even an entitlement, but to be entrusted with the health and welfare of others should actually be viewed and approached as a privilege and an act of service. Whether we’re parenting, governing, soldiering, doctoring, or running a business, we should view our position with humility and respect for those we lead. We should always consider our actions in light of their benefit, rather than ours. Leadership means to serve others, not to force others to serve us. If we only consider what we, as an individual, want, or what we personally stand to gain, our organization is doomed to fail, or at least, flounder.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying, “We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice, not in love with publicity but in love with humanity.” This is the heart of the matter. How can anyone hope to be an effective leader if their main concern and motivation is their own agenda and self-aggrandizement? They can’t, unless their personal objective is despotism and dictatorship, then self-centric leadership is effective, to the detriment of those being led.
Several recent events prompted these thoughts. Foremost are the impending presidential election, the COVID-19 upheaval, the presidential impeachment proceedings a couple of months ago, and the sickening behavior of many of our elected officials. Too many congressmen and senators have made a career out of their positions and forgotten just what they were elected to do. The word “representative” seems to be used euphemistically rather than literally. Most of the longest-sitting have lost all touch with their constituents and all sight of the purpose of their office. They exist solely to debauch the Constitution, make money at the expense of their people, and besmirch the integrity of the offices they hold.
In considering my colleagues in the Fourth Estate, by giving up any concept of ethical responsibility and unbiased reporting, they, in consequence, lost the greatest privilege they ever had – leadership. The reporters and journalists of this nation were once relied upon to keep the government in check by truthfully and accurately reporting both sides of every event and political dispute and shedding light on the deeds done in the dark. Do “Watergate” or the names, “Woodward and Bernstein,” ring any bells? Walter Cronkite, known as “the most trusted man in America,” enjoyed a level of power few men outside of government ever know, and he wielded it with humility and morality. I wrote a paper on him for my journalism ethics class in college. (Yes, that was an actual class, and no, it was not an elective.) Trust me, Cronkite’s doing cheetah flips in his grave right now, and my professor’s head has probably exploded. Once upon a time, it didn’t matter which newscast you watched. They all told the same stories. Most people chose based on the anchor they preferred. I remember seeing a lot of Dan Rather as a kid. (“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”) Today, there’s a network for every viewpoint, political preference, and ideology.
In 1789, Thomas Jefferson asserted, “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
And therein lies the rub. We, the people, are supposed to be the leaders of this country. Our government was established of the people, for the people and by the people. Our elected representatives serve at our will, and yet we set them no boundaries. We’ve grown complacent, content to give the horse its head and allow it to wander where it will. We’re becoming an oligarchy rather than a democratic republic. In consequence, we’re losing our civil liberties, handing control of our economy over to foreign countries, and allowing ourselves to be divided by political ideologies and infected by socialism. For the first time in my life, I’m disappointed in my country.