You hear a lot today about a political leader’s leadership ability, or lack thereof. You hear about what the American people want and need from their leaders. What THEY really need is for leaders to think about one thing, and one thing only: the greater good for all.
Political leaders often confuse working for the greater good for all with winning elections, which is actually all about self-interest. Leaders–be they politicians, elected officials, businessmen or CEOs, presidents of associations or captains of industry–need to find expressions of the greater good. They need to inspire trust. They need to be able to bring people together as a group, in an enterprise or in their community. Too often, the opposite happens. Too often we see leadership through division, setting groups and individuals against each other. Too often, we get leaders who pursue their own agenda, which clashes with the greater good. Good leaders find common ground, divisive leaders shun it. Good leaders provide opportunity and education. Leaders without empathy deprive people of opportunity and education. These days, we see political paralysis because the people we call our leaders don’t lead, barely speak to each other, and fail in their ability to define the greater good. What we need in leaders is courage, wisdom and imagination.
Nelson Mandela showed both vision and courage when, after long years of imprisonment, he reached out to his foes to save his country. Former Mayor Anthony Williams showed imagination and embarked on a journey to transform Washington, D.C., the fruits of which we are seeing today.