We are offering all the wrong rewards in our ongoing process of nominating and hiring new leaders of the free world.
We offer poor pay, constant and stinging criticism, a frequently uncooperative Congress, and a Supreme Court that may undo any accomplishment. And enough lavish perks and ego strokes to make Nero happy.
That’s why we keep getting a grab bag assortment of candidates.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
Let’s imagine for a moment that we owned a company enjoying revenues in the $10M per year range; The CEO of our company would make about $400K/year, exactly what we pay the President of the United States. And there would most likely be significant incentives for hitting desired targets on top of that. Our hypothetical company is well positioned in a growing market, with a history of innovation. We now need a new CEO; the current one is retiring, partly due to age, and partly for her health. She was a highly successful founding CEO, and now we need a great new CEO to stay profitable and continue to expand rapidly. As we write the job description, we need to remember that the candidate would expect that the job would come with investors who would cooperate and encourage. And jump in to help if needed and wanted. As we write the description of the desired candidate, we know the key is to emphasize the opportunities and the required skills that will attract the type of leader we need. We are going to get candidates who want what we are offering. If we offer strong compensation for robust, positive results, we will attract candidates who want that, and believe they can deliver. If we offer poor compensation, lavish perks, fame, and an uncooperative environment, we will get candidates who are willing to suffer the low compensation and difficult environment in return for the perks and the fame. But why on earth would any sane business owner offer the that? Why?
We, the voters, the owners of our American democracy, do it all the time. And it gets worse with each election. Imagine the kind of candidates we would get if we ran the following Help Wanted ad:
“CEO to run a company of 330,000,000 people, with a security force of 1,300,000. Your Board of Directors is split between two groups; one with 435 members, the other with 100. Both groups are divided between those who will like the CEO, and those who will detest the CEO. The HR department has 9 members who often overrule everyone else. Every four years the people get to vote on the CEO, and in between they vote on the Board. There is also a bureaucratic department of 2,000,000 employees, none of whom can be fired. Compensation is $400K annually, with good benefits, a pension plan, meal plan, housing and transportation. Must be good with people; half of the 330M people in the company will be out for your hide at any given moment. During the 18 month interview process, you will be subject to intense scrutiny, exhausting travel, and you and your family will be vilified. Apply to USA, an equal opportunity employer.
The US Presidency is arguably the toughest, and certainly the most consequential, job in the world. We need, “Men To Match My Mountains” a book by Irving Stone about the men who matched the challenge of opening the American West. On occasion, we have seen men who matched the then current challenges and were able to step up to the dreadful tasks demanded of the times. George Washington risked everything he owned, including his life, as a traitor to the British Crown, to be part of creating the breakthrough founding documents. He then led the ragtag army that defeated the most powerful military the world had ever seen. Similarly, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, to list a few, rose to the occasion when crises loomed and they steered us through to the other side. Here’s a compliment to George Washington from an entirely unlikely quarter. Washington was held in such esteem by his countrymen, for his character and rectitude, that they would willingly have made him their king. It was upon this occasion that when King George asked what Washington would do, that the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James replied to the king, “He will return to his farm”. King George, George III, replied of his former enemy, “Then he shall be the greatest man in the world.” Washington returned to his farm.
Where are the men and women to match our mountains today? In the past, great men volunteered, at enormous cost to themselves, to respond to challenges like the need to fight Britain to obtain our freedom, to defeat evil in two World Wars, to defeat evil in our Civil War, and to defeat our enemies in the Cold War. The list of massive challenges continues; where are the men and women of quality, commitment and competence, whom we need to step up and meet these challenges today?
So many of our current best leaders, the ones we need, both in business and in politics, when asked if they are interested in stepping up by running for the presidency, recoil responding, “Not me!” Why not?
Question: Why are so many of the “The Best And Brightest” not interested in government work in general, and unwilling to be considered for the Presidency in particular?
Answer: Candidates are no longer rising to the challenge of being the President of the United States driven by patriotism and a desire to serve the people in the USA, and by extension the people in the world. Our process, and we, you and I, are attracting people driven by their egos and their desire to benefit personally, to be served instead of to serve.
Yes, the fault is ours. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” -Shakespeare’s character, Cassius. We have shown with our voices and our votes that division, insults, misleading information, and cliches and slogans masquerading as research and policy are what we will accept. And worse, far worse, we do not see these faults in our activities, in ourselves; all fault belongs to those who disagree with us. We are not divisive and cliche-driven; they are. All sides believe that about all the other sides.
And all-too-many of the politicians on both sides of the aisle play to that weakness in us. Until we, We The People, demand that all of our leaders act like functioning adults, by seeking agreed-upon common goals, sticking to the complete set of facts that pertain to those goals (courts call facts like these evidence) and use non agenda-based thinking to reach those common goals, nothing will change. We The People must change. “There go my people, I must follow them for I am their leader.” -Gandhi. Let’s give our leaders something worthwhile to follow.
Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:
- Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
- Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.
And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing.
If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.
Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.
Join me. Join the others. Think about what we are talking about and share these thoughts and principles with others. Subscribe, encourage others to subscribe. Act. Let’s grow this together.
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Links and References
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Remember: Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.
Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.
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