Has the Quality of Leadership Vanished?

By Randy Gonzalez

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Where have all the leaders gone? Has quality vanished? You know those good, decent self-assured confident examples of competent leadership. Instead of acting like a leader, many try to define it but fail. Some even try to teach it, but miss the point. In the meantime, distortions, deceptions and dysfunctions flounder upon the shores of human interactions. Our entertainment industry portrays leaders in mythical depictions. At the same time, our politicians struggle to emerge as leaders in real life. Often though, they fail to give credible performances. Too many times the courage of convictions falters in the face of adversity. Genuine leadership appears retired to the history books of other eras. Instead, a covert spinelessness has surfaced. Cowardice is cloaked in appeasement, dressed in vestments of duplicitous babble, and shod with an arrogance of self-importance. Political correctness strangles the truth. And, fear has betrayed the sanctity of truth, justice and integrity. The moral courage of extraordinary leadership has been replaced by a counterfeit mindset. Leaders seem to have become an endangered species. Leaders are valiant heroes who dare life’s challenges. They’ll make dangerous decisions, take daring actions and risk the peril of personal enrichment. Instead of appeasing whims of the moment, or the latest polls, they plod against the opposition with courage, discipline and valor. Regardless of the criticism, animosity or unpopularity, real leaders embrace the bravery of the difficult journey. In lieu of the more savory and safe course, theirs is one of challenge. The leaders are out there, but far fewer than ever before. Theirs is a lonely quest in their professional life. For they risk much in their courage to face organizational strife. Whether in the lofty corporate realms or the public service arena, a leader relishes the opportunities afforded by a position of authority. He or she understands how to be boss. They know what decisionmaking means. And, they’re not an appeaser at any price. Leaders aren’t anxious, fearful or timid androids mimicking the “party line”. They’re bold freedom fighting innovators who assert the courage of their convictions. They take command, motivate people, and accomplish the mission. And, leaders can admit mistakes, taking full responsibility for their actions. As accountable members of the organization, they don’t whine, blame or find excuses. Leaders comprehend the tact, skill and necessity of giving orders. He or she sets the proper example for others to follow, realizing that leadership is not a popularity contest. In performance of duty, the leader is not driven by opinion polls, or how well he or she looks on camera. Instead of a failure of nerve, leadership is an assertion of conscience. To show the way, leaders stick to their profound sense of what is right, necessary and essential to the goals of the organization. Precision of command requires timely technical and tactical effectiveness. Personal competence is crucial. Yet, the organizational landscape creeks with timid souls of anxious risk avoidance. Their clever cowardice sabotages operations. They’re more concerned with feeling good, being politically correct, and pandering to popular culture. And, let’s not forget the pompous arrogance of their hidden agendas. These denizens of destructive “peace-mongering” foster the spineless folly of their own fears. You will find them in every organization, from our criminal justice systems, to the national political scene. Their inclinations chase motives that advance the tenor of weak, timid and fearful emotionalism.1

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Friedman, E. H., A Failure of Nerve – Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, (Bethesda, MD: The Edwin Friedman Estate, 1999), page 12;

Has the Quality of Leadership Vanished? By Randy Gonzalez

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Leaders, in a sense of the poetic, are valiant warriors who have guts to take risks, brave the opposition, and standup to the bullies of corruption. Instead of believing the folly of their own mythology, hiding high places to trade their integrity for the thrill of the sound byte, leaders are on the frontlines. Today, if you ask a group of people to name a truly outstanding leader, most are hard pressed to come up with a single example. Some will cite movie stars, sports figures or television personalities. Confused, they stammer and stumble, struggling to define who or what a leader is. People are frustrated with politicians, the press, and the priesthood and college professors who espouse nebulous theories. Most people want good leaders, if they could find one. However, our media oriented culture sends mixed messages. Short sound bytes seem to have all the answers before cutting to the next commercial. Fads, quick fixes and instant gratification don’t solve the long term complexities of human interactions. Instead, leaders stick to the necessity of consistent well-defined problem solving truths. Leadership is not found in the fakery of salesmanship, warm fuzzy clever slogans or simplistic solutions with no direction. Dedication to principles over practices takes precedence. As such, taking command is about strength of mind in what really and truly matters for the greater good of all persons. It is an extension of one’s belief system in sound ethical precepts, moral correctness and rightness of action. Being in charge, concerns the construction of ways, means and methods to instill the desire among subordinates to create cohesiveness, productivity and exceptional performance. A leader uses his or her mental skill set to ensure success. Leaders exhibit a clear articulation of the basis for understanding the goals and objectives of the organization. Leadership is the competitive edge against organizational or global tyranny in marketplace of serious winners and losers. They do what is right regardless of the challenges in the fight. Leadership carries the weight of its own personal armor, projecting adherence to values, ethics and professionalism. Character stands against the corrosion of personal corruption. With leadership, there is no simple lesson plan that can teach its principles, practices and predilections. You can’t buy it, sell it or delegate it. You simply got it or you don’t.2 One has to take command, get the job done and move on to the next objective. By demeanor of personal expression, physical presence, and manner of dress, a leader demonstrates his or her unique identity. Leaders reside in the remote hallowed corridors of trust, respect and ability. Unfortunately, what we’ve evolved instead is a culture of the weak, the timid and hesitant. Pacifistic tendencies of conciliation have replaced the responsibility of standing for respectability of what is just, proper and fair. A lot people would rather feel good. As opposed to getting their act together, toughing up and overcoming their difficulties. The sense of fear pervades the modern workforce in facing decisive efforts to do the honorable, upright and righteous things. Regardless, we fail to see how weakness provokes the sinister, wicked and malevolent aspects of human nature. Predators are quick to spot their prey. Take advantage of vulnerable opportunities to advance their own causes. But, leaders understand the necessity of personal strength, asserting their courage in the face of opposition, and dissenting against the treachery.

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Alexander, J.B., Groller, R., Morris, J., The Warrior’s Edge, (New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990), page 44;

Has the Quality of Leadership Vanished? By Randy Gonzalez

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In the meantime, the cowardly hide behind a cloaking pretense of justified deception. And, if one spreads a big enough smoke screen, then others is likely to get used to the fumes. The rational is usually avoided because the irrational is easier to accept. Hypocrisy passes for wisdom, while truth suffers the setbacks of myth, magic and metaphor. This trinity of illusion scams the gullibility of those who long for authentic credible leadership. While some people are pompous windbags of dogmatic delusion, others are committed followers of their mystic demagoguery. Still there are some who maneuver cleverly back and forth between the two. All too easily though, without serious question, most herd themselves into flocks of sheepish anonymity. They wait for someone to lead them. Imposters, false prophets and gurus of self-help marketing schemes collude in the communal conspiracy of self-deceit. In spite of the evidence, many find fiction more fascinating than fact. Fantasy, whim and fable have nearly become the new reality. However, leaders know better. They don’t accept the pretense of false assertions. They fight back with well-founded information, substantive detail and absolute facts against unsubstantiated foolishness. The burden of command concerns itself with evidence, certainty and truth. Leaders stand ready to confront the pretenders, who manipulate people for the sake of hidden agendas. In every organization, there are many good managers, supervisors and technocrats. However, such capabilities are not the same as those required to be a leader. Being in charge and possessing the scepter of leadership is something very special. It’s not easily imparted in seminar, lecture or weekend retreat. Neither is it the stuff of clever slogans, colorful hype or smart looking window dressing. Leaders are manifestations of educated experience, intellectual capacity, emotional stability and personal integrity. They reside in the nobility of being good for their word. Likewise, they have a special ability in displaying a caring temperament for others. And, an ability to balance power and control issues. Leaders posses a profoundness for imparting what they’ve learned in life. 3 When leaders emerge at home, in politics, on the police force, or the corporate realm, they’re known for who they are. And, for what they believe. Especially the exhibition of ethical precepts in practicing principle over popularity. It’s a poise of authority possessing meaning, relevance and rectitude. The welldifferentiated leader has his or her own unique personality. At the same instant, they don’t pursue the myth, magic and metaphor of the latest fad, fashion or feel good tool, tactic or technique. For him or her, simplistic templates of quick fix problem-solving don’t get the job done. By virtue of critical thinking skills, the leader implements creative, innovative and daring strategies. They’re inventive at getting results and accomplishing the goals by pursuing efficient and effective objectives. He or she doesn’t fit a specific mold. So, you can’t delegate, clone or typecast leadership. It evolves in the right individual at the right moment in time for the right place. From sincere compassion for subordinates, to enthusiasm for the career field, including exceptional physical and mental energy, to technical and tactical abilities, the leader knows the essence of command. And, he or she understands the burdens that go with it.4

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Wilson, O.W., Police Administration, (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1963), pages 10-11; Iannone, N.F., Iannone, M.P., Supervision of Police Personnel – Sixth Edition, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001), page 41-42;

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