Where Have all the Leaders Gone?

This book was a fascinating read a few years back, written by Lee Iacocca, around the time of George Bush’s presidency. His rallying call at the time was that there was a general lack of leadership in the U.S. and that his country would falter as a result. Published in early 2008, his book was timed perfectly with the economic meltdown that soon followed.

Fast forward to today – a few days after “Super Tuesday” in the U.S., The rest of the world woke up this week with the stark realization that despite all of the pundits predictions to the contrary, Donald Trump is likely to be the republican candidate for president (we will save commentary on Hilary for another blog).

I reached out to an American friend (a southern Republican) and asked them what the President of the United States should be like. Their response?:

“I feel like the President of the United States is in the most powerful position in the world and should be a leader that inspires us, and the world, to strive for excellence and be that world power. S/he should be untouchable and exude a strength that leads the country to greatness. S/he should have a class that rivals royalty”.

Doesn’t sound at all like Trump.

So if true, how is someone like Trump winning so far? We outsiders are left wondering how someone so bombastic and in your face can be so inspirational for so many people? Just last week he claimed he wanted to punch a protestor in the face. Before that? He claimed his support would go up if he were to shoot someone. In my world, we call that bullying and harassment – surely this is not the stuff of “good” leadership?

Here is my thesis.

Nature abhors a vacuum. And going back several years, as mentioned at the outset, the U.S. (and let’s not be smug here, the rest of the world as well) lacks truly great “leaders”. When leadership is absent, people will follow anyone or anything that resembles it. Just this past Fall, an entire election campaign was fought in Canada on the theme of leadership….and I am not sure we got that one right either. The incumbent, a hard-nosed micro-manager who kept a hand on everything, was considered a “leader”. Such a concept still makes me shutter. A good manager? Absolutely. But a leader….I don’t think so. So the country voted in an inexperienced person who was very inspirational and had great hair (seriously, google Justin Trudeau). But I digress.

What comes to mind is the age old question of what a “leader” truly is (and isn’t). Sadly, there are as many different thoughts on leadership as there are people who have tried to define it. Being a sucker for alliteration and easy to remember taglines, I like Iacocca’s 9 Cs of leadership. A leader must have:

• Curiosity
• Creativity
• Communication Skills
• Character
• Courage
• Conviction
• Charisma
• Competence
• Common Sense

When the folks, including Trump, fail to register on many of these dimensions, there is a huge void. My fear is that without true leadership being displayed by any of the candidates, the person who is screaming the loudest and making the most noise gets the attention. Perhaps, as so eloquently stated some eight years ago by Iacocca, it is time to get back to the basics of leadership.

I know the rest of the world would welcome it. I suspect many of my American friends would too!

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