Thursday, January 22, 2015

Governance & Leadership: More Than Campaigning and Influence Peddling

Not long ago, a friend of mine asked me why I have taken the position that leadership does not represent the same thing as influence. After all, for a number of years, leadership experts like Warren Bennis, John Maxwell, Jeff Hale and a host of others have both explicitly and implicitly promoted that idea.

On the surface that position seems reasonable. If leadership means something like: "directing change;" and if, through influence, people affect change; then influence and leadership should mean the same thing. However, like so many other things, it's all in the intent. Those who use influence, do so to try to sell a receiver on potential courses of action. On the other hand, those who use leadership, do so to try to direct followers through those courses of action. Therefore, it has seemed to me that influence serves as the cause and leadership serves as the resulting effect. Additionally, influence might serve as a desired outcome of leadership... but that's a different story.

Of course, like most concepts I think about, I wondered how these musings relate to governing and to liberty. I first thought about the administration and then the legislators, at all levels of government. What counts is the influence and what counts as the leadership? Generally speaking, it appears to me that campaigning counts as the influence part. It also appears that governing counts as the leadership (and management) part.

Considering potential presidents of the United States (and any other potential chief executives who requires votes for election) as an example; those people, as candidates, make various promises to their associated constituencies, before their elections. By doing so, they attempt to influence their constituents' behaviors -- in this case, to vote for them. Ideally, upon election, they shift from trying to win votes to trying to govern in the chief executive role. Oh, they might have to revert, from time to time, back into the influencing role, in order to withstand any potential votes of no confidence. However, for all intents and purposes, with the influencing (campaigning) completed, elected officials provide what the electorates hired them to do: they go before them and govern or lead.

The problem is that too many people in the electorate have been lulled into believing that it makes no difference. Stories abound of how those representatives have taken actions that clearly support campaigning and influencing, when they should have been governing and leading. They've done this through acts of cronyism, providing unreasonably large amounts of support for special interests groups, and otherwise, failing to stand up for needed, but otherwise unpopular political positions. Then, rather than taking actions to hold these officials accountable, the majority of the electorate have usually responded by turning their heads to the side and offering rationalizations, like: "they've always done it...," "there's nothing we can do about it...," or even "that's what they're supposed to do..." Huh?!!

The bottom line: if we fail to draw a line between campaigning and governing and a line between influence and leadership, then no one will ever have the ability to know and understand where one stops and the other begins. In other words, people will politicize all of the actions of all the representatives who serve in positions of governance. They will consider all of the actions of all people who serve in roles of leadership as no more than so much propaganda.

Maybe we've already arrived at that point. When George W. Bush served as the President of the United States, it seemed that Republicans generally tended to defend nearly everything he did. On the other hand, Democrats generally tended (and continue) to speak out against nearly everything he did. Consideration for the actual long term (and even short-term) effects of his administration's policy implementations seemed to pale in comparison to the perceptions of the positions on which these observers placed him on the overall political spectrum.

Through the years, people have told me that I incorporate too much idealism in my reasoning. However, I truly believe that a better way exists. I believe that people can work together, regardless of their differing political ideologies. I believe that they can agree on better courses of action, than those that result from crony-influenced compromises. These better courses of action, like an Hegelian dialectic, would require lawmakers to synthesize dissimilar elements of their competing positions. Hard work? Yep. Doable? You bet'cha. But if history proves an accurate indicator, unless we stand up and take notice -- and take action, things will continue to slide toward anarchy in our republic. How about that for a New Year's resolution?


Originally published in ClashDaily at:


Copyright © 2015 by GR Bud West. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Leadership Mantle: A Foundation of Responsibility

Anyone can lead. Opportunities for leadership emerge in all walks of life, in all endeavors, and in every organization and society on the planet. Not a day goes by without this proving true. Walk down any street, in any city or town that has a stoplight and you’ll find opportunities for leadership.

Throughout history, however, confusion has resulted on this point, from the use of imprecise language. Specifically, it has caused some people to act like: (a) only those who hold positions of authority count as leaders and like (b) everything those people do counts as leadership. Even though some people might think these have little bearing on the important things in life, I argue that they represent the very foundation of many of the problems that we face today.

In starting my argument, I preface by confessing that many would consider that most people I follow (and who follow me) on Twitter lean to the raucous right. As such, seldom a day goes by that I fail to see that someone has used the term “sheeple,” in a non-flattering context. Of course, in many cases they use this term to describe members of an electorate that has allowed (and has sometimes even encouraged, through their non-participation) their elected representatives to work against their collective, long-term best interests.

Arguably, the Congress of the United States has the lowest approval rating in history. It has maintained that lofty status for several years (decades). Yet the electorate has consistently continued to send at least 80% of the same people back to Congress, during every election cycle, during that same period. If a person continued to do the same things, the same way, over a long period of time; expecting to see different results after each iteration, some would call that person crazy. What should we call it when a whole country does that?

Many factors have contributed to the “sheeple syndrome.” One factor has included politicians who have kowtowed to special interests groups. Members of these groups often have direct and indirect funding from the government. Consequently, they have voted for the person in the party most likely to continue (or increase) their funding, regardless of any other issues or platform items.

Another contributing factor has included members of the electorate who have remained ignorant of the issues or who have otherwise opted out of the political process. For example, during the Bush/Clinton campaign, I asked a 28-year-old, Army veteran, in her third year of nursing school, whom she planned to vote for. When she told me Clinton, I asked her why. She replied: “… because he’s better looking” — and she wasn’t kidding.

It’s easy to put the blame on people like these. It’s easy to say that they should know better or that they should put the interests of the entire country above their own self-interests. It’s also scary to think that someone who’s paid a price of service would attach so little value to one of the most important franchises that she served to protect.

However, even if I do blame them, I don’t blame them the most. The people most responsible, from my perspective, include those who know the difference and have the capabilities, but have refused to pick up the mantle of leadership and make a difference. It’s the ones “in the know,” who have traveled along their ways through life and regularly had discussions with members of special interests, with people who’ve remained ignorant, and with those who’ve opted out; but who’ve never engaged on a deeper, “discipleship” level.

One of my favorite “management” quotes includes: “people won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It might seem cliché. You might think that no one should have to do it (after all these are citizens of the United States of America and don’t they have a responsibility to know these things?). You might even argue that someone else should take on that responsibility (don’t we pay staff members in public schools to do that grunt work?). However, that reasoning and those excuses have repeatedly failed to work in the past; and if we continue to do the same things, in the same ways in which we’ve always done them, should we really expect different outcomes?

Bottom line: just as passing a chest of gold to a baby in a manger and saying “Happy Birthday,” does not necessarily a wise man make; likewise, passing a campaign brochure to an unconscious destroyer of liberty, during daily travels, and saying “please vote,” does not necessarily a patriot make.


Originally published in ClashDaily at:


Copyright © 2014 by GR Bud West. All rights reserved.