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Successful Politicians…Failing Leaders

March 18, 2015

Note: This is the second in a series of three opinion pieces. Each will include the same opening and closing. The middle section of this one provides different thoughts from the first piece.  Likewise, the middle section of the third will differ from one and two.

Dictionary.com defines a politician as “a seeker or holder of public office who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles.” This is just one of several definitions provided by the reference. My observation is that we have far too many aspiring and elected officials to whom this definition applies. The fact that we as a nation have so many politicians as defined here explains why there are so few leaders in our nation; consequently, our county and the world are coming apart and clearly headed for disaster that might never be overcome. Because there are so many people who know how to win elections but care little or nothing about leading, our terrible circumstance is that we have a multitude of “Successful Politicians…Failing Leaders.”

Chief among these “Successful Politicians…Failing Leaders” is President Barack Obama. Here is a man who absolutely knows how to win elections. His ascendancy to the presidency in 2008 followed by reelection in 2012 when every indication was that he should have lost demonstrates his astounding ability to win elections. However, his campaigning, governing strategies and tactics defy all that is essential for effectively leading. An article by Peter Economy titled “7 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders” provides a framework for examining President Obama’s effectiveness in leading America and influencing the world for good. The writer talks about leading employees, but these traits apply to any person in a position of leadership. Here are Peter Economy’s 7 traits:

1. Inspire action.

2. Be optimistic.

3. Have integrity.

4. Support and facilitate your team.

5. Have confidence.

6. Communicate.

7. Be decisive.

Now to why I submit that the President fails on the third trait.

Have Integrity: Peter Economy writes: “Research shows that the top thing that employees want from their leaders is integrity.  Be honest, fair, candid and forthright, and treat everyone in the same way that you yourself would want to be treated.”  Let me be very clear, far too many politicians fail to demonstrate the level of integrity required for successfully leading people.  I am writing about President Obama’s failure in this trait and others because his failures are so profound and extremely costly to America and the world.  Here is some of what I considered on integrity:

  1. Start with the President’s 2008 position regarding same-sex marriage.  His stated position was that based on his Christian faith, he believed marriage was between a man and woman.  By the 2012 campaign, that position “evolved” to not only acceptance of, but strong support for same- sex marriage.  David Axelrod, former key Obama advisor, has written a book titled “Believer.”  Numerous reports indicate that in the book Axelrod writes that even in 2008 Obama was in favor of same-sex marriage.  In an article “David Axelrod stands by same-sex marriage account,” Kendall Breitman writes the following based on Axelrod’s comments during an interview with Politico’s Glenn Thrush:

“History is replete with cases of some of our great leaders finding a way through the  minefield of politics to get the country to where they felt the country should go, and he’s in that tradition,” Axelrod said, noting that he “never doubted where [Obama’s] heart was” on the issue.

I find no fault with politicians changing their position on an issue when there is some logical explanation for the change.  However, as President Obama did here, misrepresenting one’s position on an issue for political gain is a serious negative on the integrity scorecard.  The sad fact of life is that American voters often excuse this behavior while constantly complaining that so many politicians are repeatedly guilty of this conduct.

  1. The Obama administration, along with other nations, is in talks with Iran to prevent that country from gaining nuclear weapons capability.  Although the administration has kept most details of the talks secret, enough information has been leaked to cause tremendous concern among many members of Congress and others familiar with Iranian nuclear capability development.  There is also heightened concern among countries neighboring Iran.  The thinking among many is that President Obama is moving toward an agreement that will, whether intended or not, allow Iran to have nuclear weapons at some time in the future.  Even though this agreement could detrimentally affect not only America, but Israel, neighbors of Iran, and the whole rest of the world, the Obama administration seems clearly prepared to sign an agreement without consulting Congress and without a vote in Congress.

In response to and because of these circumstances, 47 Republican senators wrote an open letter to Iranian leaders stating that without Congressional approval, any deal between Iran and the U.S. would be merely an agreement between them and President Obama.  Further, the next president could revoke the agreement or future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement.  These senators were roundly verbally attacked by various people including President Obama.  Media reports indicate that Iranian negotiators are asking about the implications of this letter.  Every indication is that the Iranians were not aware of the possible consequences presented in the senators’ letter.  The burning question is why would the Obama representatives not be clear, even with the Iranians, in explaining the possible complications that might result from an agreement made independent of Congressional approval?   For me, the answer is clear…another case of President Obama and his administration not demonstrating integrity.

  1. President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) they would be able to keep their doctor and insurance.  That has not proved to be the case for millions of trusting citizens.

I recognize that integrity is a fading trait in American society and even around the world.  However, it is still essential to the process of successfully leading people to meaningful accomplishments.   Consider the journey of any failed leader and I am confident a major contributing factor to that failure was insufficient integrity.  I contend that the occurrences addressed above along with many others show an integrity deficit on the part of our President and therein is a major cause of his failing presidency.

Finally: So, this lack of leadership by President Obama and too many other politicians is disappointing and scary. It is made worse by the fact that we are destroying this country and then passing it on to innocent young Americans. I get to talk with a very smart eleven year old boy about the happenings in our nation and world. In one of our conversations, he shared an ancient Indian quote with me. It says, “We did not inherit this earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Those who are in positions of governmental leadership should give attention to the truth and weight of this statement…then act accordingly.  Break free of being “politicians” as defined in the opening paragraph. Lead!!!

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