These are challenging times and if we ever needed real leaders, well, now be the time. President John F. Kennedy was fond of (mis)quoting Dante but the sentiment is unforgettable and maybe even more pertinent now: “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.” The real quote
What passes for leadership now in the public sector are timidity, passivity and faux sincerity. With acrimony and sanctimony the modus operandi in congress we are happy when a member merely keeps his pants on or her profits public.
Author Jim Collins, who wrote Good to Great and Great by Choice, has studied and written extensively on successful organizations with an intense focus on leadership. While he primarily focuses on what makes transformative and truly effective leaders, some skills are unimportant, even dangerous. These are likewise critical to identify, and equally important to avoid. Personal charisma is exactly one of those traits.
Amiable and charming are sometimes alluring distractions from decisiveness, integrity, and even harsh realism. According to Jim Collins great leaders are “paranoid performers.” They’re always asking, “What if,” and then preparing for it. They think about and anticipate the day of “bad things.”
We are eleven months away from another election where we will pick those people who will then make decisions, or at least have an influence on issues like; war, taxes, liberty, the very future of our planet, if and how our kids will be educated. You know nothing major.
We have the tendency to think, because they Congress is often like a dysfunctional group of teenagers - narcissistic and impatient - very little of consequence actually happens in little old Washington. I’ll just bet that people in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Tar Sands in Canada, and the 99% here in the U.S believe that those people we are entrusting with our lives and our future actually do matter.
Here in Washington State we don’t even know yet what our congressional districts will look like next year. The redistricting process is still taking place. But make no never mind, we have plenty of candidates who nevertheless are running. They want to be in that august yet low performing body called Congress so bad they don’t even care what district they are in, or who else might be candidates.
It is interesting listening to the local, Democratic political cognoscenti talk about Heck’s candidacy. One hears a lot of “inevitability”, “well connected” and “successful” (regarding his business enterprises) but never anything about any actual issues – either his past support or likely future advocacy. No record of accomplishment, much less commitment on issues of importance. In fact he is known more for what he carefully won’t support like economists supported income tax and can thus not risk alienating anyone. Show me a man with no enemies and I’ll show you a man with very few friends.
During the general election campaign last year the most prevalent argument in favor of Heck was that he wasn’t the right wing stooge Herrera. The primary voters spoke, the argument went, and while they could have had (State Senator) Pridemore, or other candidates, they chose Heck. Even assuming the fallacious notion that our campaign system is fair and offers equal chance to all candidates, the great lie therein is borne out by this year’s experience
We don’t even know what the district will look like much less who the other potential candidates are. Sure Heck is “inevitable” if he successfully scares everyone else away. Of course his attempt at appearing the fait accompli candidate can only happen if we aid and abet the process with his coronation and the discouragement of any contenders.
Heck is considered is charismatic, though that notion is far from universal and seems conspicuously to predominate when he is running for something. Charisma without boldness and decisiveness is like fast food – empty and incredibly ephemeral.
He is also noted for his local giving. Benevolence and even largesse with one’s own resources on behalf of charity is commendable. Giving of ones self and finances, even when to strategically determined, non controversial causes which are carefully calculated to help one’s political future is still important. But are we confusing the ceiling with the floor?
People like Heck can be given recognition as a “volunteer of the year”, but elected as a representative of the people who by definition will be needed to make difficult decisions and, um…lead? Is it because our expectations are so often dashed that we have lowered our standard to merely someone who is viewed as charismatic, has parlayed his connections into financial wealth and knows all the political elite?
Lacking immediate restraints and long-term supports, a charismatic leader will be inclined to protect his or her position by attempting to "simplify" the group's internal environment to eliminate sources of dissension, normative diversity, and alternative leadership. See, Wallis on leadership
Perhaps the social critic Mick Jagger said it best when he wrote and sang that there is evil in the world, and we need to be on our guard, because evil will not always appear as such, and may often be disguised by those who would wish to deceive us.
Sympathy for the Devil. The devil may appear to be a gentleman, “a man of wealth and taste.” He reminds us, “Hope you guess my name, But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.” This is the devil saying, “Hope you recognize me when you see me, because I come in many guises. And my game is not to do evil myself, but to trick you into doing it.”