By Brock Pierce
As citizens of the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world, it seems that we Americans are quick to assume that we lead the world. Yet, if that’s the case, it also seems that we Americans have forgotten what leadership is — and what it is not.
Leadership is to guide from the front, rather than to direct from the back. Leadership is to provide an example for others to follow, rather than to provide an example of what to avoid. Leadership is to care for the people you lead, rather than to use them for selfish aims.
Perhaps some might say that leadership is only about conducting and directing, that what I’ve referred to above as leadership is limited only to a certain style, quality, or type of leadership. But, I disagree. If I direct from the back rather than being in front, I am commanding rather than leading. If I conduct myself in a way that the people I’m conducting deplore rather than admire, I am tyrannizing rather than leading. If I use people for selfish aims rather than care for the needs and desires of those I lead, I am abusing rather than leading.
It seems to me that we Americans have confused leadership with management, administration, and supervision. We have confused leaders with bosses, officials, and presidents. This isn’t to say that there aren’t bosses, officials, presidents, managers, administrators, and supervisors who are leaders. However, most of America’s true leaders carry none of those titles. Instead, America’s true leaders are people who inspire us to be and do better. America’s true leaders are people who lead us by example, rather than by chains and shackles.
It hasn’t been uncommon for Americans to see more talk of leadership than examples of leadership. Given the value and importance of leadership, it seems surprising that, relatively speaking, leadership has gone into hiding in our country. We’ve seen so many Americans in positions of authority choose ego and influence over purpose and principle. We’ve seen so many Americans in positions of authority choose selfishness and greed over altruism and generosity. We’ve seen so many Americans in positions of authority choose arrogance and vanity over modesty and humility.
Is it any wonder that so many of us have confused independence with defiance? Is it any wonder that so many of us have confused individuality with segregation? Is it any wonder that so many of us have confused following true leaders with following false ones?
American leadership is absent for a reason.
American leadership has been demonized, demoralized, and disincentivized. We Americans have sought targets for our fear, our grief, and our anger. We have looked to leaders and especially those in power with scorn and hatred, quick to judge and slow to forgive. We Americans have devalued true leadership and stopped trusting in the desire and ability of our leaders and those with power to care for our needs. Instead, we have allowed for the glorification of greed, selfishness, and arrogance because doing so validates our fears, grief, and anger. Doing so makes us right — at the cost of our well-being and that of our country.
It is imperative that we as Americans stop confusing conflict resolution with weakness. It is imperative that we as Americans stop choosing exclusivity over inclusivity. It is imperative that we as Americans stop devaluing and discouraging true leadership and instead invite and welcome its re-emergence in every aspect of our society.
As human beings, we invite and welcome the true leadership of others by inviting and welcoming true leadership within ourselves.
Before we require purpose and principle from others, we must require purpose and principle in ourselves. Before we require altruism and generosity from others, we must require altruism and generosity in ourselves. Before we require modesty and humility from others, we must require modesty and humility in ourselves. Before we require honesty and peace from others, we must require honesty and peace in ourselves.
The way to call forth true leadership is to truly lead the leaders. It is time to bring back true leadership to America. It is time for us to truly lead our leaders out of hiding and into the American spotlight.