I've never been much of a follower and with the quality of leadership on display these days it's easy to see why. I'm thinking about leadership in many forms – political, journalistic, professional, parental, …what is perplexing is that it seems that too many of those with the great responsibility are the ones lacking in what (for me at least) are essential qualities for notable leadership. There is good and bad in all of us and I don't expect all good from anyone, but the following key qualities are all too often either lacking or absent altogether:
Empathy – For others, for life, for the world around us. The odds are very high that the person being denigrated is just about as intelligent, caring, thoughtful, and worthwhile as the accuser – and may even be a better cut of humanity to begin with (at least they're not doing the denigrating!). I find it presumptuous to assume others are somehow inferior. Have you ever seen someone put down because they had a different viewpoint on things? Or their right to free speech interrupted by protests? Empathy can be applied to other life forms as well. Have you ever seen a snake or other defenseless creature killed just because it was itself? And it is still possible to feel empathy for the habitat and resources that help life to exist and flourish in the first place. Have you ever seen someone throw trash on the ground or in the water?
Accountability – There seems to be a shift away from personal responsibility and toward blaming others. Perhaps this is the result of the continuous shift away from individualism and towards governing policies that inevitably tend to encourage the status quo by creating a kind of level playing field. I think each of us needs to be accountable for our actions – no matter how severe the repercussions. I am unappreciative of others pressuring the way I live, work, and think.
Vision – This is related to "class" as well as the notion of "inclusion versus exclusion." I want to hear the pros and cons of all sides of issues with no distortion and no name calling whatsoever (name calling is usually a substitute for any meaningful analysis). I don't want to be told how to think – I am capable of making my own judgments. Most propositions are terribly short sighted and mired in short term personal gain rather than anticipating the long term greater good. Teachers vote for education, minorities vote for each other, and union members vote the union endorsed line. It appears to me that most people with quick black and white judgments usually lack depth of vision and are disappointingly superficial. The world is too complex to lend itself to very many simple, clear cut solutions and policies of inclusion rather than exclusion can be valuable ways of viewing the world. It's like trying to decide whether to play zone or man-to-man – even if the best choice is made initially, circumstances can change requiring adjustments, a complete tactical reversal, or a creative combination of tactics.