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Bush 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 Dictionary definition.

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 organization.

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 pleasure.

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.

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