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Saturday, October 6, 2012

What Leadership Do You Want?

"A candidate who tells voters he is 100% certain that the choices are clear and his plans will work out is lying, deluded or foolish."
(Frida Ghitis, "Can Romney and Obama Tell the Truth -- and Win?
CNN Opinion, October 5 2012)
Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. She is a former CNN producer/correspondent and the author of The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television.
Frida expressses her candid opinion about the Presidential Debate with reflections on the truth. She relates the following:
"One day -- let us hope it comes soon -- voters will demand that their political leaders present them with a more realistic sense of the possibilities and choices they face. But for now, voters demand perfect odds and simple solutions, and politicians oblige.
"President Obama confessed as much in a recent Vanity Fair profile, when he revealed he knows that each one of the decisions he makes as president could turn out wrong. 'Nothing comes to my desk that is perfectly solvable,' he said. 'Any given decision you make you'll wind up with a 30 to 40 percent chance that it isn't going to work.' But the American public, the president suggested, cannot handle those odds. After you have made your decision, you need to feign total certainty about it.
"Despite knowing this, Obama did not project that supreme confidence and simplified arguments in Wednesday's debate. Romney did. That was not the president's only problem, but it was one of the reasons he didn't fare well.
"The frustration showed after the debate, when Obama accused Romney of blatant lying in a debate that, like both campaigns, has been rife with distortions. Both candidates twisted the facts. Romney did it to better effect. It's a tragedy for American democracy that the tactic works."
I agree with Ghitis when she says, "The American political system demands charisma, leadership and boundless optimism, even if they are artificial and hollow." Real charisma would allow leaders to change their minds, but not reshape their ideology to win over different audiences. It seems the American electorate has trouble distinguishing the difference. between a leader modifying his position on an issue and flip-flopping on his unique vision that constitutes his goals, expectations, and actions
To hell with proof. Americans like it when their leaders tell them: "I am completely sure of what I propose and totally convinced it will work. Yet, I would agree with the Vanity Fair Obama quote -- "nothing is perfectly solvable." So, why are politicians so eager to make false claims with certainty? It gets them votes even if people know the candidates are lying about the effectiveness of their proposals. Emotions run high for policies and political candidates, and emotions often rule over facts and intelligence.
The American voter's perception of a strong leader is someone who is not only self-assured but also authoritative -- I agree with Ghitis when she says, "It (effective authority) is an idea that has become manufactured and artificial."

Politicians accomplish an authoritative presence not so much by promoting policy accepted as true because it is substantiated or supported by documentary evidence and accepted by most authorities in the field but by playing the authoritative role -- including the employment of many dramatic and psychological techniques that enhance their looks, their body language, their voice, their aggressive nature, and their brute will.

In fact, a feigned authoritative style is less successful when the leader is working with a team of experts who may have more experience -- and who may disagree with his approach. A partisan Congress presents challenges for those who attempt to lead by strict but hollow authority. These authoritative leaders often try to "bully" support for measures without substance.

On the other hand, participative or democratic leadership allows the followers in the team to participate in decision making. This style permits the intelligent participants to decide the most effective attainable plan. This vogue of leadership has twofold edges: (1) it permits a leader to work closely with his followers, and at the same time (2) helps maintain an amicable relationship with them. The decision creating, in fact, is completed by the leader after the teamwork. Using this vogue of leadership isn't at a sign of weakness but a strength.

Certainly proclaiming leadership works best under strict authority should cause people to question that mode of thinking. No matter the strong charisma of the leader, a delegatory style of leadership can often reap the best results.

I believe strong leaders practice these skills:

1. Directing

Defining roles and tasks of the "followers" based upon proven grounds and supervising them closely while working with them in the field. The leader must be willing to modify his own directions when necessary.

2. Coaching

Defining roles and tasks, but constantly seeking ideas and suggestions for improvement from the followers. Decisions remain the leader's prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.
Coaching means using strategies to meet specific situations as they occur.

3. Supporting

Passing many day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the followers. Then facilitating the followers with resources and praise. This entails adjusting according to needs.

4. Delegating

Allowing the followers to have some actual share of control by transferring certain responsibilities to them. The followers help decide how and when the leader will become involved. The leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving.

I definitely question any leader who professes to have "the answer" to any significant problem we face, especially when that leader cannot outline or articulate specifics based on current research. He is unrealistic and full of deceit.

I can support a leader who works with a strong team to address a problem with a platform based on real and proven success. The true measure of leadership is the ability to keep abreast of successful management techniques and to encourage a gifted team to develop fully their fundamental skills so that they may employ them to full fruition.

A leader is only as good as the team he leads. He is not successful if he is an inaccessible, stubborn "island" of authority. And he certainly will not succeed if his view of authority is remaining a figurehead that never "bends" to advice in the winds of change.
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