Our societies bad habit of fearful leadership

Updated: May 14, 2020

What habitual action makes a good leader? Eloquence while speaking? Relatability to the common man? Ability to tell a narrative? Trustworthiness? A solid moral compass? Somebody who agrees with you? Someone who executes popular opinion? The goal in this blog is to expand your thought of what leadership means and why your habitual perception may steer you in an undesirable direction.

Think back to leaders that you would follow through the mud. People who inspired you to be the best you can be both from a personal, public, and historic lens. Looking at leadership through the personal lens it maybe somebody like your mother who commanded your large family with love and a stick. Maybe your current boss gets you through difficult tasks with a smile on your face.

Through a public lens, perhaps your current mayor aligns with your beliefs. You could have an alderman who fights for you and what is right. Through a historic lens perhaps Martin Luther King Jr. is someone who you admire or Marcus Aurellius defines what true leadership is. It would be an interesting book in it of itself going through the different levels of leadership and what that looks like on multiple levels.

I bring this up so you can put on a divergent lens and see a broader picture of what leadership is. Try to take off the egotistical lens of “What is best for me” and look at what is best for society. This is not a binary difference though, It isn’t just what is best for the person or best for society. It is what is best for the person, best for society, and over what time frame.

Let’s use a current example to illustrate the point. Covid-19 pandemic is a challenge for leadership on every level; Families, businesses, communities, State, and Federal levels all face challenges that may not be congruent with each other. In March, with limited information and life preservation as the main metric, safer at home orders were the prudent and intelligent thing for right then. Now, ask yourself if it is a POSSIBILITY that 30 years from now we could look back and say that more harm than good occurred from the safer at home declaration?

It’s hard to say it’s not at least a possibility as we will have infinitely more information 30 years from now. We will also measure more metrics than direct human life lost from the virus itself. We will measure long term effects to the economy, cancer deaths from lack of testing, suicide rate spikes, child abuse numbers, and the list goes on. We will also have much more information on the virus and how it effects the populations.

All of this is easy to see, in hindsight. How does this tie back to leadership? A strong leader stands up and communicates information to the best of their ability, with a genuine moral compass, from a point of understanding what is best for the majority of the people they serve. Do you agree with this definition of a good leader? Now ask yourself, have we gotten that?

On a National stage who stands out as the honest person who is conveying information you trust to not be politically biased? Here in Wisconsin, (which is where I am from) our governor has made a habit of flip flopping on what is best based on political lines. While I cannot be the judge of these people, as an expert on habitual behavior I can tell you our society has developed a terrible habit of leadership by fear. Our leaders are fearful they will not be re-elected, fearful they will not get a campaign donation, and fearful of being wrong.

Where are the leaders that have a habit of honesty? Where are the leaders who say, “I don’t have all the answers, here is the information I am working with and here is the decision I am making for this current time.” Of course they are going to be wrong sometimes, that is human. Maybe they won’t be re-elected, or get the donation from the big corporation but so what! My guess is that if there were a leader like that out there, we could get behind them, no matter your political bias.

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