As anger spills into the streets and protests erupt over racial injustice and systemic racism that corrodes the American dream the importance of strong leadership is magnified. It’s no surprise but in times of crisis constituents look to their leaders not only for solutions but for a clear message. They rally around flag, extend trust and offer approval even when it may not have existed beforehand. They tune in and long to hear transparent communication that transcends party lines.
A key element of crisis leadership is to offer a clear message that reinforces a sense of safety and security in the listener. It lets them know that the sacrifice they feel today is temporary; that there is a better tomorrow on the horizon. Words are carefully chosen with themes and sound bites to convey confidence that there is a clear plan forward, a light at the end of the tunnel for all to see. Without that, chaos ensues and institutions crumble.
Good leaders inherently understand the need for reassurance in times of crisis. They avoid sarcasm and conjecture during such times. Unfortunately it comes as no surprise that our current Commander in Chief is incapable of such. He is in every way the opposite of a transcendent leader capable of rallying a diverse nation through times of crisis. His agenda extends no farther than his own bedroom mirror and the sycophants who cheer him on.
Our country has been tested countless times before. In those moments both Republicans and Democrats have used their bully pulpit to successfully guide this nation through the turbulence. They did so by adhering to basic leadership principles. To a man (they all had that in common too) each leader embraced the following during such times,
They do not think perception is reality. They rely on facts, science and logic to shape perception to match reality.
They emphasize collaboration and inclusiveness. They do not fear diversity. They embrace it.
They do not suppress feedback, free speech or dissent. They open their doors, listen and learn from it.
They do not finger point or deny accountability for their decisions. They own their choices and know the buck stops with them. Always.
They do not act a prisoner of circumstance or scream about how unfair life is. They innovate and experiment with new paradigms to limit or remove obstacles.
They do not view empathy as a weakness, but as a strength.
They do not bully. They nurture.
They do not ostracize, belittle, or build walls. They instill confidence, promote commonalities, break barriers and build bridges.
They do not rule by negativity and fear. They grow consensus through transparency and hope.
They do not surround themselves with “yes men” and seek to be the smartest person in the room. They challenge themselves with diversity and grow through failure.
In the course of history there have been countless examples of leaders who chose to rule otherwise. Who ruled through fear mongering, authoritarian accountability and slogans. Who preyed on the weakness of the disenfranchised to promote their own agenda. Who sent out thinly veiled code and dog whistles to call upon the deplorables of society to do their dirty work.
But riddle me this? Has such a leader ever been on the right side of history? Have they ever progressed our collective interests? Brought us closer to that more perfect union our founders dreamed of?
The answer, I fear is obvious.