Leadership is always top priority here at Allied Resource Partners. After all, our tagline “Leading the Way…” says it all. Americans expect their political leaders to have those requisite leadership skills necessary to get the job done, but judging from polling, we the people don’t like what we see going on in DC today.  This article will look at the problem.

And let me start by asking this question: where does the quote “Those that can do, and those that can’t teach.” Greek scholars claim that they can find some such reference in the writings of Aristotle who may have said that those who are good enough can do and teach, but the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw gets the credit for writing it in his play “Man and Superman.”

I imagine that some of you recognize this extension in the Clint Eastwood-starring movie “Dirty Harry”: Those that can do, those that can’t teach, and those that can’t do either administrate,” which is a knock on the people who muddle through to become managers and leaders. Perhaps this is part of the reason why Congress today has such a low approval rating.

Shaw’s play is actually a romantic comedy about a young woman pursuing a man. The third act is subtitled “Don Juan in Hell,” and is like a play within a play, giving Shaw free rein to explore timeless philosophical themes found in humans, i.e. “the human condition. And the play shares its title with Nietzche’s philosophical treatise “Man and Superman.” Nietzsche posits the superman as a being, whose distance from conventional humanity is greater than the distance between man and beast. Thus, “the superman rejects all conventional human practices and values and invents his own value, which in relation to the existing values, will be new ones.” 

Well, let’s focus on leaders and leadership today in the USA. If you have ever listened to motivational speaker Simon Sinek’s video about getting to why, you’ll hear him say that people want their leaders to inspire them by telling the “Why How What” of whatever is their cause. Leaders must practice situational leadership, which means they treat each person individually, and they must have enough stage presence (that is, looks and speaking skills) to command an audience. And leaders must wield power diplomatically via influence and persuasion. No one wants to be forced to do something they don’t agree with.

Have you ever considered this question: why does a person want to be a leader? The answer is perhaps obvious. Everyone wants to have the power to control what might happen to them. Wouldn’t you love to have the laws of physics altered so you could have inanimate objects do what you want when you want it? 

But controlling living things is much more problematic because their goals might not jibe with yours. (And let’s put aside philosophy’s biggest question: what is the purpose or goal of life? Each of us has already answered that for daily activities.

Lord Acton said “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” which means we the people must choose wisely when picking our leaders.

Throughout most of history, the people didn’t choose leaders. Leaders came to power first by brute force, and then through heredity, religious, or royal authority. Only through the struggles of the wisest rebels empowered by Renaissance and Enlightenment teachings did new forms of choosing leaders emerge. And today, there are two preferred methods:

  • Democratic-styled voting. The people choose. This can work if the voters know the facts and political elites don’t have too much election fraud power. 
  • Meritocracy. Leaders rise to the top because they have what it takes.

And now, let’s add to what it takes to be a leader. If you google it, you’ll get lists like the following, which are like apple pie and motherhood – too generic to be helpful. Here’s a summary of one such article.

What are Leadership Traits?

Leadership traits refer to personal qualities that define effective leaders. Leadership refers to the ability of an individual or an organization to guide individuals, teams, or organizations toward the fulfillment of goals and objectives. It plays an important function in management, as it helps maximize efficiency and achieve strategic and organizational goals. Leaders help motivate others, provide guidance, build morale, improve the work environment, and initiate action.

List of Effective Leadership Traits

A common misconception is that individuals are just naturally gifted with leadership skills. The truth is that leadership traits, like other skills, can be acquired with time and practice. Below are seven traits of an effective leader:

1.   Effective Communicators

Leaders are excellent communicators, able to clearly and concisely explain problems and solutions. Leaders know when to talk and when to listen. In addition, leaders are able to communicate on different levels: one-on-one, via phone, email, etc.

2.  Accountable and Responsible

Leaders hold themselves accountable and take responsibility for any mistakes. Leaders support and encourage individuality while abiding by organizational structure, rules, and policies that need to be followed.

3.  Long-term Thinkers

Leaders are visionaries. This is evidenced by the leadership trait of being able to plan for the future through concrete and quantifiable goals. They understand the need for continuous change and are open to trying new approaches to solve problems or improve processes.

4.  Self-motivated

Leaders are self-motivated and are able to keep going and attain goals despite setbacks. In addition, good leaders try their best to exceed, not just meet, expectations.

5.  Confident

Virtually all good leaders share the leadership trait of confidence. They are able to make tough decisions and lead with authority. By being confident, leaders are able to reassure and inspire others, establish open communications, and encourage teamwork.

6.  People-oriented

Leaders are typically people-oriented and team players. They’re able to foster a team culture, involve others in decision-making, and show concern for each team member. By being people-oriented, leaders are able to energize and motivate others. By making each individual feel important and vital to the team’s success, they secure the best efforts from each member of the team.

7.  Emotionally Stable

Leaders exercise good control and regulation over their own behavior and are able to tolerate frustration and stress. Leaders are able to cope with changes in an environment without having an intense emotional reaction.

Traits of a Bad Leader

Listed below are the traits that bad leaders commonly exhibit:

  • Too bossy
  • Fearful of change
  • Unwilling or unable to communicate effectively
  • Dismissive of ideas other than their own
  • Lacking empathy
  • Inconsistent
  • Prone to blame others rather than accept responsibility themselves
  • Indecisive

Let’s dig deeper and find background traits for political leaders today.

  • Leaders live at the intersection of two axes, one labeled historical that stretches from the past into the future, and the other labeled the public’s values going from current to wished for. Leaders must analyze the existing conditions before plotting and then communicating, educating and inspiring a desirable path forward using the four cardinal virtues: Courage, Prudence, Justice, and Temperance.
  • And to add to your understanding regarding virtues, the seven capital virtues, also known as contrary or remedial virtues, are often enumerated as chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, patience, and humility. They oppose those opposite the seven deadly sins.
  • The seven deadly sins are pride (offset by Humility), envy (Charity), gluttony (Temperance), lust (chastity), wrath (Patience), greed (Kindness) and sloth (Diligence). The seven heavenly virtues are faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance and prudence. According to Roman Catholic theology, the seven deadly sins are the seven behaviours or feelings that inspire further sin. They are typically ordered as: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are four biblical figures who appear in the Book of Revelation. They are revealed by the unsealing of the first four of the seven seals. Each of the horsemen represents a different facet of the apocalypse: conquest, war, famine, and death. 
  • OK, let’s get back to leaders. They must be willing to confront realistic but often hard truths by standing tall and defending their convictions, exhibiting the characteristics of both a stateman and prophet, and be willing to act boldly if necessary.

And the historical trajectory of politics has led from hereditary aristocracy and privilege to meritocracy. Americans expect their leaders to emerge from the middle class and be above average, having earned their lofty status in the rough and tumble competitive world. And they prefer leaders who have practical degrees encompassing enough of the liberal arts and are not necessarily subject matter experts but know how to balance the advice of technocrats against the practicalities of the real world. This kind of education is called deep literacy, which is becoming increasingly hard to obtain, given our cultural and academic institutions becoming more and more visual as well as borderline ADHD. 

And here are some examples of the challenges facing future leaders in a set of all-encompassing environments.

Climate change droughts and floods, environmental health threatened by viruses, the technological environment containing biotech and computer, Robotics and AI threats to humanity, upheavals in the social environment if Diversity and respect for rights are neglected, domestic political environment challenges if partisan politics and inequality aren’t reined in, international political challenges if the threats from China, a resurgent Russia, and a festering Middle East Theocratic Caliphate aren’t faced, and economic issues caused by inadequate safety nets and minority access to corner offices. 

  • Can you think of any current or emerging leaders who meet what we need? 

And so, the goal of leaders remains the same as it always has been: inspire and guide your people so they make wise choices.

And as we always do in our articles, let’s end by bringing Allied Resource Partners into the conversation. We don’t have the breadth or depth of impact that big companies do, but we do contribute to America’s energy independence qne job creation. And we try to follow the best leadership practices. I believe our performance as well as the way we treat our associates and partners demonstrates it, and I think that the way our management team is “staying the course” on our current strategy will continue paying off for our partners and ourselves.

Please contact me or one of my people if you would like to know more about our current projects. And thank you for your interest in Allied Resource Partners.

Rich Tabaka, President and Founder, Allied Resource Partners