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McCONNELL’S CHALLENGE: Providing Leadership in Governance

by G.R. Bud West
Clash Daily Guest Contributor

Republicans cheered, last Tuesday, as late evening election returns informed all of the watchers and listeners of the imminent transfer of leadership in the U.S. Senate. As a result of these Republican wins, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), victor in his own long and hard fought Senate contest, will likely receive the nod to serve in the position of Senate Majority Leader. Of all of the questions about McConnell’s upcoming ascendance; arguably, the most important question includes: does he have what it takes to lead where we, as a nation, need to go.

Over time, people have come to basically define “leadership” as “… going out ahead and showing the way.” Additionally, for the past several generations, many authors have suggested that a vast array of factors contribute to or otherwise represent leadership. Some of the more popular factors have included concepts such as influence, trustworthiness, and vision. Of course, vision serves as the only one of these three that people have to employ, in order to actually lead. Influence and trustworthiness really represents what politicians or sales people have to do and create, during their campaigns; since the electorate won’t follow anyone or anything to whom or to which they’ve not already bought in. This becomes obvious when, during their tenures, statesmen or other service providers periodically stop leading, while they revert back to the politician or sales role, in order to shore up lagging support for their directions and their overall visions.

McConnell, the politician, won the general election by influencing his constituents to buy into his vision. He also attempted to defuse the general perception, regarding the collective lack of trustworthiness of all members of Congress. He did this by offering that his vision for America includes the need for increased trustworthiness. Specifically, in his recent victory speech, he suggested the important need for the government to provide the American people with “a reason to be hopeful” and the “reassurance that people who run the government are actually on their side.”

He further implied that the current lack of trust in government, stems from the government’s demonstrated unwillingness to “carry out its most basic duties,” regarding safety and security. As reflections of his vision, these messages played well throughout his campaign, as evidenced by his subsequent election.

Now that the election campaign of influencing has ended, the governing campaign of implementation begins. As theory relates to action, and politicians relate to statesmen, so do visions relate to missions. Therefore, assuming that McConnell’s Senate colleagues elect him as the Majority Leader, he will face the unenviable task of leading in the translation of his theoretical, political vision into a workable, governing mission — along with developing the associated goals, objectives, and tasks, as well.

In his efforts, he will undoubtedly have help along the way; because rather than only applying as a function of position, leadership can emerge at any level, within any organization, and at any time; based solely on situational needs and capabilities. However, he will also face at least three tremendous obstacles.

First, as with every other human being on the face of the planet, McConnell has a hidden agenda that has informed his vision and that will subsequently inform his mission statement and the ways in which he will try to turn that statement into reality. At best, his hidden agenda items will rank lower in priority than the items that he has publicly mentioned.

Next, McConnell’s responses to the donors and party bosses, to whom he (like most all elected officials, at the national level) owes debts of political favors, could also impact his priorities. Past events, involving elected officials from all parties, suggest that the personal and professional interests and visions of some of these types of people have not fully aligned with those that represent the best interests of the country. The challenges that he will face with this issue include trying to do right by the country, while appeasing or delaying paybacks to his cronies, as necessary.

Finally, McConnell will face his toughest challenges in dealing with the demands of the people who elected him. Statesmen have dealt with the polarization that results from the relative importance of a centralized Federal government since the inception of the Republic. In fact, anti-Federalist’s sentiments served as an important catalyst for the inclusion of the Bill of Rights, as an attachment to the Federalist’s U.S. Constitution. However, the current complexity associated with the laws and regulations brought about through decades of trying to answer every stated need of every possible constituent and their associated special interest groups (on all sides of the political spectrum), has only compounded that natural conflict.

The current situation represents a quagmire that few people can understand and that fewer still possess the capability to lead through, to an acceptable result. Add to that the issues that any real solutions will invariably involve painful choices and outcomes for those same constituents and special interest groups; and that many who would feel this pain lack the willingness to reason that the ends fully justify the means; and the calculus includes that these challenges will need a super leader to win the day.

Welcome to your life, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.


GR Bud WestG. R. Bud West serves as a Professor of Leadership and Management at a leading, Christian university; and as a Principal Program Management Specialist in an international training and development company. He holds a PhD in Organizational Leadership and spends quite a bit of time thinking and writing about leadership, social power, and liberty, from a Biblical worldview perspective. He 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: