by G.R. Bud West
Clash Daily Contributor
Anyone can lead. Opportunities for leadership emerge in all walks of life, in all endeavors, and in every organization and society on the planet. Not a day goes by without this proving true. Walk down any street, in any city or town that has a stoplight and you’ll find opportunities for leadership.
Throughout history, however, confusion has resulted on this point, from the use of imprecise language. Specifically, it has caused some people to act like: (a) only those who hold positions of authority count as leaders and like (b) everything those people do counts as leadership. Even though some people might think these have little bearing on the important things in life, I argue that they represent the very foundation of many of the problems that we face today.
In starting my argument, I preface by confessing that many would consider that most people I follow (and who follow me) on Twitter lean to the raucous right. As such, seldom a day goes by that I fail to see that someone has used the term “sheeple,” in a non-flattering context. Of course, in many cases they use this term to describe members of an electorate that has allowed (and has sometimes even encouraged, through their non-participation) their elected representatives to work against their collective, long-term best interests.
Arguably, the Congress of the United States has the lowest approval rating in history. It has maintained that lofty status for several years (decades). Yet the electorate has consistently continued to send at least 80% of the same people back to Congress, during every election cycle, during that same period. If a person continued to do the same things, the same way, over a long period of time; expecting to see different results after each iteration, some would call that person crazy. What should we call it when a whole country does that?
Many factors have contributed to the “sheeple syndrome.” One factor has included politicians who have kowtowed to special interests groups. Members of these groups often have direct and indirect funding from the government. Consequently, they have voted for the person in the party most likely to continue (or increase) their funding, regardless of any other issues or platform items.
Another contributing factor has included members of the electorate who have remained ignorant of the issues or who have otherwise opted out of the political process. For example, during the Bush/Clinton campaign, I asked a 28-year-old, Army veteran, in her third year of nursing school, whom she planned to vote for. When she told me Clinton, I asked her why. She replied: “… because he’s better looking” — and she wasn’t kidding.
It’s easy to put the blame on people like these. It’s easy to say that they should know better or that they should put the interests of the entire country above their own self-interests. It’s also scary to think that someone who’s paid a price of service would attach so little value to one of the most important franchises that she served to protect.
However, even if I do blame them, I don’t blame them the most. The people most responsible, from my perspective, include those who know the difference and have the capabilities, but have refused to pick up the mantle of leadership and make a difference. It’s the ones “in the know,” who have traveled along their ways through life and regularly had discussions with members of special interests, with people who’ve remained ignorant, and with those who’ve opted out; but who’ve never engaged on a deeper, “discipleship” level.
One of my favorite “management” quotes includes: “people won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It might seem cliché. You might think that no one should have to do it (after all these are citizens of the United States of America and don’t they have a responsibility to know these things?). You might even argue that someone else should take on that responsibility (don’t we pay staff members in public schools to do that grunt work?). However, that reasoning and those excuses have repeatedly failed to work in the past; and if we continue to do the same things, in the same ways in which we’ve always done them, should we really expect different outcomes?
Bottom line: just as passing a chest of gold to a baby in a manger and saying “Happy Birthday,” does not necessarily a wise man make; likewise, passing a campaign brochure to an unconscious destroyer of liberty, during daily travels, and saying “please vote,” does not necessarily a patriot make.
G. R. Bud West serves as an adjunct Professor of Leadership and Management at Regent University; and as a Program Management Specialist in an international training and development company. He has also served as a bi-vocational minister of music and education, a sales manager, and as a corporate trainer and project manager. 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