by G.R. Bud West
Clash Daily Contributor
Not long ago, a friend of mine asked me why I have taken the position that leadership does not represent the same thing as influence. After all, for a number of years, leadership experts like Warren Bennis, John Maxwell, Jeff Hale and a host of others have both explicitly and implicitly promoted that idea.
On the surface that position seems reasonable. If leadership means something like: “directing change;” and if, through influence, people affect change; then influence and leadership should mean the same thing. However, like so many other things, it’s all in the intent. Those who use influence, do so to try to sell a receiver on potential courses of action. On the other hand, those who use leadership, do so to try to direct followers through those courses of action. Therefore, it has seemed to me that influence serves as the cause and leadership serves as the resulting effect. Additionally, influence might serve as a desired outcome of leadership… but that’s a different story.
Of course, like most concepts I think about, I wondered how these musings relate to governing and to liberty. I first thought about the administration and then the legislators, at all levels of government. What counts is the influence and what counts as the leadership? Generally speaking, it appears to me that campaigning counts as the influence part. It also appears that governing counts as the leadership (and management) part.
Considering potential presidents of the United States (and any other potential chief executives who require votes for election) as an example; those people, as candidates, make various promises to their associated constituencies, before their elections. By doing so, they attempt to influence their constituents’ behaviors — in this case, to vote for them. Ideally, upon election, they shift from trying to win votes to trying to govern in the chief executive role. Oh, they might have to revert, from time to time, back into the influencing role, in order to withstand any potential votes of no confidence. However, for all intents and purposes, with the influencing (campaigning) completed, elected officials provide what the electorates hired them to do: they go before them and govern or lead.
The problem is that too many people in the electorate have been lulled into believing that it makes no difference. Stories abound of how those representatives have taken actions that clearly support campaigning and influencing, when they should have been governing and leading. They’ve done this through acts of cronyism, providing unreasonably large amounts of support for special interests groups, and otherwise, failing to stand up for needed, but otherwise unpopular political positions. Then, rather than taking actions to hold these officials accountable, the majority of the electorate has usually responded by turning their heads to the side and offering rationalizations (“they’ve always done it…,” “there’s nothing we can do about it…,” or even “that’s what they’re supposed to do.” Huh?!!)
The bottom line: if we fail to draw a line between campaigning and governing and a line between influence and leadership, then no one will ever have the ability to know and understand where one stops and the other begins. In other words, people will politicize all of the actions of all the representatives who serve in positions of governance. They will consider all of the actions of all people who serve in roles of leadership as no more than so much propaganda.
Maybe we’ve already arrived at that point. When George W. Bush served as the President of the United States, it seemed that Republicans generally tended to defend nearly everything he did. On the other hand, Democrats generally tended (and continue) to speak out against nearly everything he did. Consideration for the actual long term (and even short-term) effects of his administration’s policy implementations seemed to pale in comparison to the perceptions of the positions on which these observers placed him on the overall political spectrum.
Through the years, people have told me that I incorporate too much idealism in my reasoning. However, I truly believe that a better way exists. I believe that people can work together, regardless of their differing political ideologies. I believe that they can agree on better courses of action, than those that result from crony-influenced compromises. These better courses of action, like an Hegelian dialectic, would require lawmakers to synthesize dissimilar elements of their competing positions. Hard work? Yep. Do-able? You bet’cha. But if history proves an accurate indicator, unless we stand up and take notice — and take action, things will continue to slide toward anarchy in our republic. How about that for a New Year’s resolution?
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, as a Chief mechanic on submarines in the U.S. Navy, 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