and Leadership: Never the Twain Shall Meet
April 2, 2002
Much has been touted in the media about just how great a
leader George W. Bush is as President, beginning before his
inauguration and increasing after September 11th. In my opinion
the media in all its insipid desire to praise the President,
and to a much larger extent, the citizens of the United States,
have missed the point.
Leadership is defined by Webster's Dictionary as one who
leads or guides, or is in charge, or in command of others.
But I believe leadership is far more than the simplistic Webster's
For the sake of argument, let us use the analogy of a sports
team, something the President purports to understand. A team
leader is often one of the best players on the field. In a
team sport, we more than occasionally see a team comprised
of one great player and many others mediocre to poor in skill.
More often than not, they fail. On other occasions, like in
the case of Mario Lemieux or Michael Jordan in their prime,
we see top athletes help other teammates elevate their play
to levels previously unthinkable. In many cases we see top
players take their money and hide in their mansions away from
the media and the commoner. Other times we see the best of
the best giving both money and personal time for the betterment
others on and off the field of play.
Leadership involves listening AND comprehension and there
is a difference. Just as you can lead a horse to water but
not make them drink, you can make a person listen but not
understand. If comprehension or understanding were so simple,
there would be a "comprehension receipt" function in email
software, not just read receipt.
Comprehension in leadership is the realization that those
around you contribute to your success. On a team, that means
everyone from the peanut vendor to the top point guard is
a contributor. It the comprehension that putting people in
the seats and keeping them there is just as important as putting
the ball in the net, and that failure to do either will result
in failure for the team. It involves the idea that everyone
in the organization from janitor and mailroom clerk to the
CEO is somehow responsible for the overall success of the
Comprehension rides in tandem with success. Those who don't
or can't comprehend are usually far more interested in power
than success. For those who don't know the difference, success
involves working with people which means comprehending their
contribution. Power means having people work for you, so you
can feel free to accept or ignore the input of others at your
If you want to see an example of leadership and success,
look at 3M Corporation. They are an example often used in
business schools and have had a run of success in many ways
unparalleled in the United States business community.
At 3M, the organization looked to every person in the organization
for product ideas. This alone was not unusual. What was unusual
was what was done when an idea was found. When a person came
up with an idea, they were paired with a mentor. That mentor
was responsible for guiding the idea, and the person responsible
for the idea, through the process of building a business plan
and defending their idea to the organization. If the leadership
decided this was an idea worth exploring, they put the money
in place, and put the person who came up with the idea in
charge of the newly created product division. At 3M, they
have a culture that not only listens but also rewards every
single person in their organization who can come up with a
successful idea. Their story is one where the janitor, secretary,
or mailroom clerk can become CEO in a year. At 3M, management
apparently cares what everyone thinks.
Leadership is much more than simply being the best at what
you do, or to lead others. It is also the ability to raise
the ability of those around you. It is the ability to rally
teammates in the face of adversity and show them how to pull
more from themselves than they themselves thought possible.
It is the ability to unite those with diverse goals, to pull
diverse people with different backgrounds toward a common
cause. True leaders are a rare breed, and we do them a gross
disservice by bantering around the term as if just anyone
popping himself into an authority role can do such a job.
George W. Bush, in no way represents the ideal of true leadership.
Leadership involves participation, listening, working with
others, and uniting a diverse group for a common cause, none
of which George W. Bush has proven capable of.
With George Bush Jr. we see ignorance, power, and a failure
to comprehend on new and interesting levels. We have been
led to walk away from treaties representing strategic safeguards
and years worth of work on both the parts of Americans and
foreign allies. We have alienated allies with our need for
warmongering, and have divided this country along social,
political, religious, and ethnic lines even faster than I
believe Pat Buchanan could have accomplished. We have seen
little of the "unite and conquer" mentality of true leaders,
and more of the "divide and conquer" mentality that benefits
him, his family, and his friends.
The notion that this individual is a leader in any way, shape,
or form may be the biggest misnomer known to man if you use
my definition. So let's call President Bush for what he truly
is. We have seen the acronym CINO, for Christian in Name Only.
I think the President is a LIPO, a Leader in Poll Only.