Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What really makes a leader?

My favorite internet writer, Tony Woodlief, found a book he likes. It's called Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, and is a story of the Battle of Thermopylae that Woodlief calls "far more faithful to history than the stunning film, 300."

But what caught my eye was not Woodlief's recommendation, but his snippet of a lecture that the character Xeones gives to the Persian King about the character qualities of a real king:

A king does not command his men’s loyalty through fear nor purchase it with gold; he earns their love by the sweat of his own back and the pains he endures for their sake. That which comprises the harshest burden, a king lifts first and sets down last. A king does not require service of those he leads but provides it to them. He serves them, not they him.

And then, Woodlief ties a great quote to a great thought:

Replace king with pastor, CEO, or — dare one say it — U.S. President, and perhaps this lesson extends beyond royalty. But if we took it to heart, how many self-styled “leaders” would warrant replacement? And with whom would we replace them?

It's a thought-provoking point, so I tried to reshape the quote to apply to presidents in particular. Alas, mine is a bit more wordy than those from Pressfield via Xeones:

A president does not command the loyalty of his country by milking tragedies or exaggerating challenges. He does not purchase that loyalty by trying to create a government program for every boo-boo in society. A president earns the love of his countrymen when they see in him a genuine concern for their challenges, and when he works tirelessly with other decision-makers -- both inside and outside of government -- to find solutions without trying to score political points or make his opponents look smaller. His principles are clear and unwavering, but the solutions that fit within those principles are wide-ranging and sometimes out-of-the-political-box. When a president asks his countrymen to shoulder a burden, he first demonstrates his own sacrifices to meet that burden, and continues to sacrifice until the burden is lifted. He never forgets that he works for his country and its people, that the decisions he makes will have real impacts on his countrymen for many years to come, and that he thus has a responsibility to regularly address the reasons behind those decisions. He does not insist on blind loyalty -- either from the people immediately surrounding him or from the country at large -- but invites push-back to temper his ideas. In short, the president is elected to serve his country, and he should demonstrate service -- to family, staff, Congress, country and God -- in every action he takes.

Is that too high a bar?



Post a Comment

<< Home