by G.R. Bud West
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
“Leader of the free world,” has served as an informal statement of title, used in reference to the office of the President of the United States. However, it has also served as a meme, to suggest that, from generation to generation, (a) the people of the United States work to achieve outcomes that represent their own collective best interests; (b) what serves as in the best interests of the people of United States also represent the best interests of all other people in the global community; and (c) the person who holds the office of President works to accomplish outcomes that reflect the best interests of the country and therefore, the best interests of the world.
However, it has also seemed that all Presidents in recent memory have, from time to time, worked toward accomplishing outcomes in the interests of sub-groups, both within and outside of the United States. Arguably, this has led to some people having suggested that the then-current President acted more like a king, lord, or dictator, than as merely the appointed to lead in governing the people.
People talk a lot about leadership. In fact, just about every day, one pundit or another mentions it in the media. Whether discussing politics, religion, business, or sports; sooner or later, conversations tend to gravitate toward the topic. Additionally, it seems that a lot of people have used the words leader and leadership to refer to anyone who uses authority to provide direction, in order to reach (or to try to reach) desired outcomes or destinations. People certainly have the right to perceive and use whatever meanings they choose, for the words they hear, read, and speak; but does everything that given people do, when serving “out front” really count as leadership?
For example, some writers have argued that the values and behaviors that they otherwise expect of and observe in all people, regardless of position or role, probably don’t count as “leadership.” Although those who direct others couldn’t lead well without them, the facts that the people out front have to breathe, eat, and sleep; or that they use expert communication skills, treat those who report to them with respect, or have superior visions do not, by themselves, qualify these folks as leaders.
Arguably, great followers, great friends, and even great sales people all possess these attributes, whether they ever lead or not. Similarly, the fact that people happen to work in front of others, while directing or coordinating their activities to reach the best organizational or societal ends doesn’t necessarily qualify them as leaders, either. Managers do that, as well (and a long, long line of folks would argue the existence of other fundamental differences between leadership and management).
On the other hand, the forms of direction that people choose to utilize also depend upon their intentions or agendas. Those directors who place the best interests of their organizations or societies at lower levels of priority than their own special interests, utilize forms of directing other than management or leadership. In other words, when people who provide directions toward achieving outcomes that don’t fully reflect the best interests of their constituents served, it doesn’t just represent bad leadership. By definition, in these types of situations they use lordship (kingship) or dictatorship, rather than leadership, to do so.
Some people have already argued that President Obama’s latest words on immigration reform represent an example of lordship (kingship, or dictatorship), in action. Obama attempted to justify his actions, by saying of his newly coined immigration policy, “The actions I’ve taken are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century.”
Touché, but in response, the fact that previous presidents have effectively legislated from the administrative branch hardly seems a justification for the continued practice. This seems especially true, when considering that all of these presidents have used just about all similar instances of executive action, in recent memory, to establish or maintain relationships that involve crony capitalism or to otherwise further the political agendas of specific special interest groups. In the end, John Locke suggested that the implementation of these types of behaviors represent the “dissolution” of representative government (Second Treatise on Government, chapter XIX, § 219).
The assumption of lordship by a sitting President does not represent a one-party problem. The opposition party has to deal with the excesses; and soon enough, a representative from their party will ascend to the chief executive role and likely continue the same course of action. Neither does it merely represent failure (or success — depending on the perspective) on the part of the setting chief executive.
The Constitution enumerates the interests that members of the legislative branch should have, in keeping the executive branch in check, regardless of party affiliation. Yet, the need for (read: love of) contributors and their money serve as strong incentives for Congress to maintain the status quo. Again, it matters little whether the money comes from and the favors go to the Koch brothers or George Soros or whether the endorsements come from Alec Baldwin or Adam Baldwin. It still remains easier for congressional legislators to go with the flow, rather than realigning the system, in favor of what’s best for all citizens.
Therefore, the ultimate fault lies with the electorate, who, for the most part, treat elections as popularity contests. Einstein reportedly said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” If this proves true, then unless and until the collective electorate sets aside their individual self-interests, in favor of the interests of the entire country; and replaces both the president and their congressional delegations with people not beholden to big-money donors and party bosses, any major “system reset” seems unlikely.
G. R. Bud West serves as an adjunct Professor of Leadership and Management at Regent University; and as a Program Management Specialist in a training and development company. He also previously served as a nuclear trained submarine mechanic (MMC/SS) in the Navy. He thinks and writes primarily about leadership, social power, and liberty, from a biblical perspective and he currently lives “on the road” in the United States of America, with his beautiful home-schooling wife and four sons. Find him on Twitter: @BudWest and on the web at: grbudwest.com