Tag Archives: Presidential election

The “Gifts” of Leadership

Sometimes the best way a leader can learn how to do the right things is to observe the wrong things done by leaders who failed to do the right things.

It may not be fair to treat Romney like a dog and tie him to the top of the car as we drive off on our road trip to the future, but there is a lot to be learned about leadership from the way he conducted his campaign and his reaction to the loss.

By any objective measure, there is no way that Romney should have lost his bid to become president. Obama had entered the White House in a field of blossoming hope and change, but by election time 2012, the bloom was clearly off the rose. Those who had put the most faith in Obama – the middle class and the poor – had lost the most on his watch. For many, the enthusiasm of hope had changed to the apathy of despair. As the election process began, the confidence level of people and their belief that the country was moving in the right direction were at their lowest level in 46 years.

And on the other side of the coin (waaay on the other side) the richest 1 percent in the country had been given license by the Supreme Court to spend as much as their little hearts and big wallets desired to defeat Obama. It was not of his doing, but after four years of suffering through the most depressing economic conditions in the lives of virtually every living American, all Obama could claim credit for was emergency room treatment to stop the bleeding; the patient was stable but barely showing progress. No president had ever been re-elected with the combination of low approval ratings and high unemployment numbers that dismally defined Obama’s performance.

And that is not the half of it. Under Obama the government was running up deficit spending totals exceeding $1 trillion per year and the national debt had bloated to 100 percent of the total of the nation’s goods and services produced; the highest level since the Great Depression. All the while, the country was careering pell-mell toward a financial cliff of punitive tax increases for all Americans and draconian cuts in government spending; which everyone predicted would send the country into another economic death spiral. (In fairness to Obama, the Republicans were of no help when it came to resolving these problems. Early on in the Obama presidency the Republicans announced their first – and basically only – priority was to do all and anything they could to make sure he would be a one-term president.)

To top it off, Mitt Romney was, by his experience, temperament and background, the perfect candidate to tackle and solve the challenges – especially economic – facing the nation. Not only did Romney look like a central casting candidate for president, he had grown up in a politically active and successful business family, attended the right schools and had served as Republican governor in a contentious Democrat controlled state. He had – virtually singlehandedly – turned a potential debacle at the Utah Winter Olympics into a personal, professional, and political triumph. And there was even more: Romney served up an impressive PowerPoint presentation as an entrepreneur and CEO who had started and grown a company that returned hundreds of millions in profits to himself and his investors.

Surely the problems and failings of Obama, the dissatisfaction of the electorate and the experiences of Romney would coalesce into a perfect electoral storm that would sweep Romney into the Oval Office.

But that did not happen. The election was for Romney to lose – and he did.

Unfathomably, Romney was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Given all that had happened or failed to happen during Obama’s first term, it is hard to believe that the people would see Romney as a worse alternative to Obama, but they did.

What can explain this seeming incongruity between the state of affairs in the country and Romney’s loss?

For all of Romney’s experience, talent, potential, money and the opportunity to win what should have been an easy victory, he was only successful at convincing the majority of people that he was not a leader who could be trusted to care about or do what is best for them.

When it comes to real leadership, success is not based on power, position or promises, but on the ability of the would-be leader to build and receive the trust of those they seek to lead. Romney misunderstood the one critical requirement for anyone who wanted to be president; the election was not about who would be the best CEO of the nation, but who would be the best leader for the people. Romney had experience and standout success in business, but he failed to understood that while the title of CEO may bestow power, when it comes to leadership, the title itself does not confer the trust of the followers; that must be earned. Trust in the connotation of leadership means that the followers have confidence in the intentions, desires and actions of the leader to care about and support their ultimate welfare.

In the presidential campaign of 2012 the pollsters consistently identified four issues the voters indicated they were most concerned about: the economy, taxes, debt and deficits, and jobs. On any and all of these issues, Romney had a bridge to the White House, but it turned out to be a bridge to nowhere. What the pundits – and especially Romney – paid little heed to was that in every poll, Obama was always rated well ahead of Romney when it came the question: Who do you trust the most? What the experts – and Romney – did not see coming was that in the end, people would put aside their concerns for the economy, taxes, national debt and even jobs to vote for the individual they trusted most to be concerned about them.

During the course of the campaign, Romney’s demeanor, words and actions created, and then reinforced, the suspicion of people that while he may have been a great CEO, he was not a leader that people could trust to care about them. And by the petty way that Romney has reacted to his loss by suggesting that it was not his fault, but was due to the bribery of Obama who offered “gifts” to the electorate, it shows that he still does not get it.

If You Seek Success as a Leader, Learn the Lesson Romney Failed to Learn:

No matter how experienced, talented or the nature of your title – unless you genuinely believe and act in ways that show your care about the welfare of those you want to lead, you will fail.

As Romney learned (or should have), when it comes to successful leadership, trust trumps all. Trust gives a leader the power to set the objective, make decisions that may be questioned but always followed and even change direction when needed. Without trust, none of this is possible. To be successful as a leader you must first and foremost make sure your leadership can be trusted. People will follow a trusted leader to hell, but when the people lack trust in the leader they will tell him to go there.

And the Moral of the Story …

There are many who believe that power and position translates into leadership. For example, companies like to identify the highest-ranking managers as the “leadership group.” They do this because of the belief that if you have power, you are ipso facto a leader. But in truth, it is leadership that creates power and position—not the other way around. And leadership is bestowed by trust, not power and position.

If you believe that leadership is determined more by power and position than trust, then ask yourself: How much power and position did Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Lech Walesa have? These leaders had only one thing – the trust of those they wanted to lead – and this trust gave them power to do great things.

We may never lead the world, but if we want to lead the way in our world, we will first understand the power of trust granted by those we want to lead. We will recognize that no matter what title has been given or power bestowed, we will only be successful as a leader when our beliefs, words and actions demonstrate to those we seek to lead that we can be trusted to care about them, more than we care about power and position.

You can come up with all the sophisticated analysis of the results or complain about the “gifts” granted to “buy” votes, but all of that is irrelevant. Mitt Romney, the well- connected, experienced, successful CEO, failed to understand the most fundamental element of leadership – trust – and for that, lost the election he should have won.



All Pure, Patriotic, Christian Americans Should Vote for Romney-Ryan

America has moved away from the fundamental principles upon which it was founded but the Romney-Ryan duo promise to drag us back to them.

The Founding Fathers of this country were the elite gentry of 1700s society who fought for freedom and then formulated a constitution that in 1787 established the foundation for the American government and society that followed. Romney and Ryan would be comfortable associating with this group because, like the Founding FathersFounding Fathers, they are also white, male, wealthy, elitist, well-educated and Christian. Romney has described himself as “a severe conservative” and “as conservative as the constitution.” So, if you long for the America of the past and want to see the country begin to move back to the deep-seated, fundamental principles and concepts upon which it was founded in the 18th century, there is no option for you other than to vote for the Romney-Ryan ticket. (Assuming you are allowed to vote . . . have your government-approved ID ready).

Power to the Peons? Not Hardly. 

The framers of the constitution had a passionate desire for virtually unlimited individual freedom (especially for themselves and those of their class), but this was balanced by two overriding fears: the potential abuses that could emanate from a strong central government and the “excesses of democracy” that could result if the “unruly masses” were given the power to populate government.

Their fears were well-taken. All of the Founding Fathers had lived under the capricious yoke of a distant monarchy and, having risked life and limb in a bloody seven-year war of independence, they were determined not to exchange one all-powerful central government for another. Likewise, these privileged members of society feared that government would disintegrate into the “rule of the mob” if the populous were given the direct power to elect the government. This latter attitude was best expressed by Gouverneur Morris of New York (one of the most influential members of the Constitutional Convention) who expressed the sentiment of most of the group when, in referring to the average citizen, he said, “These sheep, simple as they are, cannot be gulled as heretofore. In short, there is no ruling them . . . and how to keep them down is the question.” (Further in his remarks he referred to average citizens as “reptiles.”)

With great vision, creativity and compromise, the members of the Constitutional Convention in the end accomplished their objectives. A much needed central government was established, but its power was restricted by a limited list of explicit powers (all other powers were retained by the states), and by adopting an intricate set of “checks-and-balances” designed to share power so that no single branch of government could become dominant. When it came to the participation of the masses (who had been promised increased rights in exchange for supporting the Revolution) only free, white, property-owing males were given the right to vote. This included about 18 percent of the population, but even at that, this cream of society was not entrusted with the right to vote directly for senators or the president. (This was left to the “one percent club” of the day.”)

Self-Reliance Comes of Age

One enduring philosophy to emerge with the new constitution was the concept of individual freedom in the form of “rugged individualism.” There was a more than implicit message that government should stay out of the lives and business interests of the individual and that every individual and business enterprise was on their own: free to rise, fall or fail based on their own circumstances and effort.

This philosophy of a detached laissez faire government persisted with but one exception – the issue of slavery when the federal government intruded on state’s rights and individual property rights causing the Civil War – for 100 years. It all began to go downhill at the end of the 19th century when “trust-buster” Teddy Roosevelt introduced the philosophy of “progressive government.” It was when Roosevelt began to use government power to interfere with business that the long trail of government involvement, leading to the degradation of the fundamental founding principles of the country began.

Roosevelt’s progressive government broke up the great monopolistic trusts, recognized the rights of labor unions, implemented child labor laws, proposed laws governing the safety of food, created regulations limiting the “free hand” of business to operate as they desired, and reserved vast swaths of land for public use, rather than private exploitation.

Forty years later Roosevelt’s distant cousin, Franklin D., doubled-down on the philosophy of progressive government and turned the very concept of American government upside down. Battling through the depths of the Great Depression, FDR decreed in thought and action that all citizens – not just the elite and wealthy – were entitled to certain rights, protections and benefits from the government; and that businesses were not entitled to act in ways that would damage society. This philosophy took the form of government jobs for the unemployed, a guaranteed minimum wage, unemployment insurance and a plan of Social Security to guarantee income in retirement. In addition, he put strict regulations on businesses, banks and investment companies that had operated as if “buyer beware” was a constitutional right.

While FDR was called everything from a “traitor to his class” to a socialist out to destroy capitalism, his redefinition of the power and purpose of government has been followed by every subsequent president. Despite the lip-syncing of presidential candidates – especially Republicans – screeching that the actions of Roosevelt had “torn up the constitution” and offering promises to reverse course; once in office they simply followed the path set by Roosevelt. But, according to many, the current occupier of the White House is the most egregious violator when it comes to desecrating the fundamental principles of America and the constitution. The list of the incumbent president’s sins are long: Clearly he is not a pure American like us. He does not understand America. He is an obvious anti-business socialist. Worst of all, he is a faux Christian who, in all likelihood, is not even legally entitled to hold the office.

Following the Bread Crumbs Back to Anarchy?

In the name of returning America to the fundamental principles delineated by the Founding Fathers and to begin to reverse the “sins of progressive government” that have been foisted on America since Teddy Roosevelt, every pure, patriotic, Christian American should vote for the Romney-Ryan ticket. After all, it is clear from their ideas and philosophy that they would be much more comfortable living in the 18th century, rather than 21st.

Of course it is too much to ask that Romney-Ryan could take us all the way back to the philosophy of government in the 18th century, but they can certainly slow the progression of this damnable progressive government and begin to move the country backward.

Based on what the Romney-Ryan duo is saying, here’s the promise of things to come:

  • Voting. America was founded on theory that only wealthy, white males should be allowed to vote. By backing state legislation that makes it more difficult for the minorities, poor and elderly to vote, Romney-Ryan are moving in the right direction.
  • Regulations. America was founded on the belief that government should not intrude on the freedoms of people. Unlike the current president, Romney-Ryan recognize that corporations are people too; so government should stay out of their business. Having come from the corporate world, Romney understands that corporations know what is best for the country and themselves, so they should be free to operate as they please. The free market, capitalist economy is driven by making money, so Romney-Ryan instinctively understand that regulating how banks and investment companies make money is fundamentally un-American.
  • Education. Romney-Ryan recognize the education is something that is earned, not granted. The current president has doubled the amount of federal grants and loans available to students. A vote for Romney-Ryan will assure that that trend will be reversed.
  • Middle Class. These are the individuals described by the Founding Fathers as “simple sheep” who are beholden to business and the wealthy for their livelihood. Romney-Ryan understand that the more unfettered and successful businesses and the wealthy become the more that trickles down to the sheep. (Unless, of course, those jobs are outsourced.)
  • Environment. As with the Founding Fathers, Romney-Ryan believe that if God did not want us to exploit the natural resources of the country, then he wouldn’t have given them to us. Think of the jobs that will be created when the natural resources of the country are open for exploitation and the thousands of additional jobs that will be created cleaning up the mess.
  • Women’s rights. Romney-Ryan do not believe that the government should interfere with the rights of the individual to make personal choices; unless, of course, you are a woman.
  • Health Care. Romney-Ryan believe everyone – even the sheep – have a right to health care and that right should not be defined, expanded or limited by government action. The right to health care should only be defined by accessibility and the sheep’s ability to pay for it.

And the Moral of the Story …

Based on the fundamental principles of the Founding Fathers, America has become the most successful and powerful country (empire) in the history of the world. Now it seems to many that America is in decline. The generally accepted view is that when a successful business or institution begins to decline, rather than trying to find new ideas for new times, the way to reverse the trend is to “get back to the basics.” Driving this attitude is the belief is that salvation in the future depends on reverting to what has been done in the past. Little consideration is given to the idea that maybe the basics have changed and that returning to the attitudes of the past may only exacerbate the problems.

Romney comes from a business background and brags of his understanding and success in business. As such, his belief is that the way to fix a declining America (if it is) is to “get back to the basics” of government as it was defined in the 18th century. If government will just get out of the way and get off the backs of individuals and business, then we can get back to the America of the past. It makes no difference that America is in the 21st century and that the times, challenges and opportunities have changed.

New times call for new ideas, but if you don’t have any new ideas, then the only thing you have to offer is to go back to what you are comfortable with and hope for the best. Times have changed and are challenging. Romney-Ryan offer the best opportunity for American to go backward and hope for the best. Even their poster says so.



Are Entitlement and Opportunity Mutually Exclusive to Effective Government

Some suggest that entitlement and opportunity don’t go together, but the reality is that one is not possible without the other.

The central issue and turning point in every presidential election since 1956 has been — for better or worse – the current state and future of the American economy. Not surprisingly, the campaign of 2012 is certain to follow that tradition.

As the Republicans scuffle their way through a messy family fight to determine their nominee, it has become apparent that no matter who emerges to battle President Obama, the imagined path to victory – for both parties – is to cast the options for American economic growth in euphemistic “either or” propositions.

Mitt Romney, the odds-on favorite to become the Republican presidential nominee, has capitalized on binary, black vs. white characterizations, as a choice  between “A government of entitlement or a government of opportunity.” This is a catchy bit of election sloganeering, but it is misleading and dangerously simplistic.

But Romney isn’t alone in this superficial campaign branding. President Obama is clearly showing that his campaign will be predicated on protecting and preserving the middle class. That’s classic Democratic shorthand for a society that protects the government programs that it believes will sustain a strong, viable middle-class is necessary for long-term economic success. I think that’s spelled e-n-t-i-t-l-e-m-e-n-t-s.

So Which is the Holy Grail? Entitlements or Opportunity? 

Voters making that important decision should first recognize that the terms “entitlement” and “opportunity” are heavily polluted; they’re being used as “code words” by politicians who invoke them to illicit a guttural response from a receptive audience, rather than a reasoned response from intelligent voters.

When Romney throws out the phrase “entitlement government” he wants people to believe that Obama seeks to take money (taxes) from the wealthy and distribute it to those who are not entitled to receive it. (This is a not-too-thinly veiled characterization of Obama as a Socialist.) When Obama uses the concept of entitlement he is coming from the belief that government has a responsibility to do for those what they can’t do for themselves. Both viewpoints are wide of the mark, and they are just as inaccurate when address economic opportunity.

When Romney speaks of offering “a government of opportunity,” his pandering message is that any act of government in the business segment, i.e. regulation and taxes, by its nature inhibits opportunity for all. On the other hand, Obama sees opportunity as something that is to be created and preserved by the actions of government. As with most emotional political debates, each side relies on an element of truth, but taken as a whole, their arguments are muddled and out of touch with reality.

Please, Just for Once, Get Real

It is unfortunate for the future of America that neither of the candidates will have the courage to argue that “entitlement” and “opportunity” are not mutually exclusive and that both are needed to create an environment for sound economic growth. Accordingly, the debate should center on specific steps to be taken in order to balance entitlement and opportunity in a way that will assure broad-based, equitable success. After all, when the history of American economic growth is examined, it is obvious that the most significant and broad-based growth has been achieved when entitlement and opportunity are balanced. Likewise, when government is canted in either the direction of entitlement or opportunity, growth has become unbalanced and stunted.

When examined objectively, Romney’s bastardization of the concept of “government entitlement” is not only disingenuous and dishonest, it is demagoguery at its worst. Romney appeals to the most base and ignoble of voter instincts; that people are receiving benefits from the government that they are not entitled to and that “the rest of us have to pay for this largesse.” In this characterization he includes “entitlement programs” such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other government benefit programs.

Entitlements Have Helped Create a Stronger, more Vibrant America

Since every worker pays into the Social Security program over their entire working lives, shouldn’t they be “entitled” to receive the promised benefits when they retire? Medicare is another “entitlement program.” Again, every working person – via payroll taxes – contributes to the program their entire life, including after retirement. Shouldn’t this entitle them to receive the medical benefits promised?

One of the largest government “entitlement programs” started with the implementation of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act – referred to as the G.I. Bill – passed in 1944 and still in effect today. This program entitled veterans to receive government grants for college and vocational education. It also provided many different types of loans for returning veterans to buy homes, and start businesses and farms. During the ensuing years the program has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service. The government (taxpayers) covered the cost of this program; so does that mean the veterans are not entitled to receive these benefits?

The reality is that the entitlements of the G.I. Bill stimulated the economy after World War II and created “opportunity” for hundreds of thousands of veterans to receive a college education, buy a home and start a business. Who among us does not have a grandfather, father or even ourselves who have benefited from this entitlement program?

The American Way

But the concept of an “entitlement government” goes far beyond financial issues to include basic human rights—rights for which we depend on government to protect. Those who argue against an “entitlement government” really suggest that all citizens are not entitled to receive certain benefits and rights from the government. But aren’t all citizens entitled to a basic education, to know the food they consume is safe, to basic health care, to equal protection under the law; and are they not entitled to protection against predatory business practices? Doesn’t government guarantee that our rights are not denied because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability? Are these the fundamental entitlements that Romney claims “corrupt the American spirit”?

When it comes to the idea of creating a “government of opportunity,” there can be the same transposition of the meaning of opportunity. Does a “government of opportunity” mean a completely hands-off government that allows a laissez faire environment where it is every man for himself, the survival of the fittest and buyer beware? Or does it mean that a government of opportunity is one that proactively insures that everyone is entitled to the same equal opportunity to fail or succeed?

From its inception, the American government has had a history of partnering, of supporting and creating an environment that encourages broad-based economic opportunity. Government has been involved and instrumental in the development of every industrial and technological advance that has resulted in the economic success of this country, and it should continue to be.

The fatal fallacy in today’s political debate over the role of an “opportunity government” is that it is obsessed with saving the past, when it should be fixated on creating a more viable economic future. Opportunity is not defined as eliminating regulations and taxes or passing out billions of dollars of bailout money in an effort to save dying industries. These ideas are at best just tinkering around the edges. What is needed, but is not being debated today, is how the government can participate in the gestation of a new type of economic opportunity that will create the jobs of the future.

For example, virtually everyone accepts that developing technologies to create abundant, cheap, clean and reliable energy is the great global need and opportunity for of future. The country that can develop this energy technology will enhance its own energy and national security, while creating millions of jobs for its own economy. As our government did in the development of manufacturing, steel, railroads, transportation and technology itself, it should focus on exploiting this opportunity. And, as it has in the past, this opportunity should be balanced in a way that offers all its citizens freedom, economic security, growth and human fulfillment. We are entitled to no less.

And the Moral of the Story …

The next time some pandering politician suggests that our choice in government is one of either entitlement or opportunity, know that this person does not understand how our government has worked most effectively in the past or that they are being blatantly disingenuous and dishonest. Either or options always appear simple and clean on the surface, but the reality is that life and the function of government is much more complex.

The American government has always been most effective when it has carefully balanced the entitlements of its citizens with the opportunity of economic achievement. It is this philosophy that enabled America to achieve the longevity and success it has as a nation and it is the notion that will continue to do so in the future.