S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Leadership: State of the Art

Americans lack confidence in many of our leaders. Visitors to this blog from here and abroad often come as a result of a web search on "leadership." The Center for Public Leadership at the prestigious JFK School of Government at Harvard published a very interesting article bearing out that point. Titled, "National Leadership Index 2006," it presents a very revealing picture of our attitudes about the lack of quality of leadership coming out of the various sectors of our society. To quote,
The only types of leadership in which Americans have more than a moderate amount of confidence are military and medical leadership. Confidence in the leadership of five sectors—education, religion, business, Congress, and the executive branch—has declined since 2005. In no sector did confidence increase.
To quote further from the Harvard Index,
Between 2005 and 2006
  1. Men’s confidence in congressional leadership dropped more than did women’s.
  2. Americans who say that religion is very important to them gained confidence in educational leadership; all other Americans lost confidence in educational leadership.
  3. People who are politically conservative, but not liberal or moderate, gained confidence in the leadership of the press.
  4. Political Independents lost confidence in military leadership; Democrats and Republicans did not.
  5. Republicans lost confidence in the leadership of the executive branch of the federal government; Democrats and Independents did not. However, Republicans continue to have greater confidence than do Democrats and Independents.
  6. Americans without a college degree lost confidence in the leadership of 4 of the 11 sectors tracked: executive branch, Congress, religious, and business. By contrast, Americans with a college degree or higher did not lose confidence in any of the 11 sectors.
  7. Americans with an annual household income of less than $100,000 lost confidence in business leadership; confidence in business leadership did not change for those with a household income of $100,000 or more.
In whom do we have confidence? A (10/30/06) feature story on our most admired leaders comes from US News and World Report. Titled "America's Best Leaders" of 2006, it was written by the JFK School's David Gergen. It opens an entire Harvard JFK School/US News section on America's Best Leaders. Who were some of them? Warren Buffett, Wynton Marsalis, the Staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Associate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and Robert Moses were among those names. The only ones named from government were Justice O'Connor; Commandant of the Coast Guard, Thad Allen; and NASA's JPL Director, Charles Elachi. For much more click on the above link.
Where are the leaders when we need them? Bill George's article in US News, "Truly Authentic Leadership," puts the problem of a dearth of leaders in a nutshell with his opening paragraph, from which I quote:
If ever there was a time when America needs leaders, it's now. The litany of problems is all too familiar—Iraq, healthcare, schools, energy, the seemingly endless series of corporate scandals. What's nowhere to be found, however—or almost nowhere—is the leadership needed to fix things. The problem isn't the lack of potential leaders, however, but a wrongheaded notion of what exactly a leader is. This misguided notion of leadership often results in the wrong people attaining critical leadership roles. Search committees and voters alike fall into the trap of choosing leaders for their style rather than their substance, for their image instead of their integrity. Given this way of doing business, why should we be surprised when our leaders come up short?
Compare the leadership in the current Republican administration with the above survey information. The contrast is stark. I, like many bloggers, am obsessed with Bush, OCP. I have posted often on OCP since the election. At one point it seemed apparent that questions of irrelevancy made The Decider's decisions almost meaningless.
Real leaders know how to do more than make war. The only thing in which OCP seems to be interested since September of 2001 seems to be waging war. He would say that "the terrorists" have made war on us, but his only seeming response has produced only weapons, weapons everywhere. The so-called "war on terror" has not included enough robust economic or diplomatic inintiatives. And it has included an assault on American constitutional protections that produced very threatening civil liberties violations at an unprecedented level.
Our current president's neglect of the needs of our own citizens has meant a rise in the level of poverty, a health care crisis, and an increasing energy dependence. The regional conflict, chaos, war in the Middle East has unfortunately joined the issues of radical Islam and oil. Eventually, the economic gap between the very rich and the economically disadvantaged, the war in Iraq, scandals and lack of confidence in Congress caused the November defeat of Republican leadership at the state and legislative level.
The electorate would have thrown OCP of of office if he and the Veep had been on the ballot. His image has fallen to an all time low. Today brings an opportunity for the new leaders in Congress to fill in, as best they can, where the administration's glaring gaps exist. It will not be an easy task, so why not cut them a bit of slack along the way.

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