Take Me to Your Leader: Who Do You Emulate? Part II
Some of the things I look for in a leader are
1. Putting your people first
2. Placing your ego on the shelf
3. Lead by example
4. Show confidence in subordinates and their abilities to do their job
5. Be unquestionable fair and even handed in your dealings
6. Gracious and generous nature
7. Have superb analysis skills and good judgment
8. Have a personality and temperament that encourages subordinates to communicate with him or her.
Example: Historical – Abraham Lincoln-16th President of the United States
Never has anyone come from such humble beginnings to rise to such greatness. One hundred fifty years after his administration, when we think of the greatness of the office of the President of the United States, who does not think of Abraham Lincoln? There are so many things to write about this man, I have to work hard to keep this short and to the point. Lincoln was known as self-deprecating, never taking himself seriously. He was smart enough to keep his ego on the shelf. He never cared who got the credit when something was accomplished as long as it was ultimately in line with his wishes as Commander and Chief. He never let ego get in the way of the ‘big picture’. Although he spent the first 2 to 3 years of the Civil War trying to appoint generals that would actually employ troops in battle instead of sit, he was very patient and offered everything to these recalcitrant generals hoping that someone would get the message. He was able to look beyond personal insults in the press regarding his leadership and yes, even his very appearance. A political cartoon of the time comes to mind, Lincoln is sitting with his hand open as he gazes in a fatherly way toward a diminutive General George McClellan (a sitter), standing in his palm with a spade in his hand saying ‘I’m digging in”!
Once he found his ideal general, Ulysses S. Grant, he gave the man a wide berth. Lincoln gets behind his people, even defending Grant from disparaging words from with wife, commenting on the horrendous number of casualties suffered on both sides when Grant engaged the enemy, calling him a butcher. When Mrs. Lincoln called Grant a drunkard, which he probably was, Lincoln came to his defense by saying that whatever it was that Grant drinks he would give to all his generals if it would get them to fight as he did. When under criticism, he always said that he could not spare this man, he fights. He had superb judgment and analytical skills knowing what was significant and getting to the depth of the issue. He managed to keep the Union together politically in the face of pressure for a negotiated peace, raising the issue of slavery to a level of importance to support the continuation of the war effort. The timing of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was masterful. He was truly a ‘Commander and Chief’ barricading himself at the telegraph office, fully using his advantage of greater resources and technology. This almost gave him the ability to control much of the Union strategy for the war from his desk. He made a point to learn about that of which he was not familiar, he acknowledged mistakes made, and so unlike a person we knew as the 43rd president. He grew on the job and like most of us that make a determination to do that, we become better. His political shrewdness, cool head and wisdom makes me want to emulate those qualities. Then his goodness and gracious nature came to the forefront when in his inaugural address of March, 1865, he was so magnanimous toward the soon to be defeated South. He did this not out of weakness but out of genuine desire to patch the wounds and get back to a one nation. His terms of repatriation were lenient, to say the least. Had he lived, I am sure that Reconstruction may well have been far less contentious. His successor, Andrew Johnson, was nothing like him, almost his opposite. Lincoln would have found away to deal with the Radical Republicans who wanted to take more of a punitive position toward the South, yet after personally conferring with Frederick Douglass and authorizing African American troops, he would have made sure that the changes fought for on behalf of the new freedmen had more than a symbolic significance. He would have struck the proper balance, which is the art of leadership and a characteristic of a great politician. This was a critical time in American history. We were blessed, if any lesser man were at the helm we may well have become a balkanized band of states.
If you have never seen it, I highly recommend the PBS Series “The Civil War” (1990) by Ken Burns
Example: Fictional Character – Jean Luc Picard – Captain of the USS Enterprise
When “Star Trek, the Next Generation”, debuted in 1987, I as a fan of the original series had my doubts about this new captain. After all, who could replace James T. Kirk? But as I watched a few episodes, his character and personality was infectious. He turned out to be the ideal leader in every way. This is a man that one delights in serving and one whom you would dare not disappoint, not out of fear but out of sheer embarrassment. He was one that met all the usual high standards for Star Fleet Officers. Putting his people first, he was always self sacrificing. He shows that in the film “Star Trek-First Contact”, where he risks his life to save a member of his crew and friend, Lt. Commander Data. This guy is android, of all things. He has this balance of discipline and duty, with graciousness and humanity in all the right proportions. Jim Kirk was a space cowboy, in comparison, who certainly let everybody know that he was the captain and that the best diplomat was a fully charged phaser bank. Captain Picard was referred to as having the heart of an explorer and the soul of a poet. He always was a cultured and sophisticated man, all the way down to the Earl Grey cup of tea that he drinks. When there was crisis, Mr. Worf, the Klingon would recommend a defensive posture; raise shields, fire phasors, etc. Captain Picard always had a reflective approach to the situation, analyzing to see beyond what was apparent on the surface. Analytical skills and judgment was first class. Compared to Captain Picard, even his first officer, Commander William Ryker, could be seen as impetuous. If this is the 24th century, such a brave new world and a salute to all the extraordinary people in it. He had this remarkable gift of listening to his specialists, medical, engineering etc, explain a solution to a problem and with all their technobabble, he could glean enough information to make intelligent decisions. There is deep respect and fondness for the man by all those that he leads. He was always ready to meet with his people within the chain of command in his “Ready Room” to discuss what was on their minds. He was the one to give ‘problem crewmen’ the benefit of the doubt after their immediate supervisors have dismissed them.
It wasn’t just the gadgets and the incredible technology of the Star Trek era that caught your attention; it was the people, their character. It is no wonder that in a certain episode that dealt with 20th and 21st century persons taken from cryogenic freeze, it was said by prominent members of the crew that there was not much to redeem them. They were right. In a world of pattern replicators, where diamond tiaras can be easily reproduced, where is all the value of material things? We have people starving on this planet for lack of resources, where a few exploit the many. In today world, the accumulation of things is the measure of success. When one of the 20th century people asked what he was to do now that the mere accumulation of wealth was no longer a driving force, Captain Picard said, “to improve yourself, enrich yourself with experiences and growth”. Now that I am retired, that is my path. If I were, in someway, transferred to this 24th century world could I strip myself of my coarse and crude 21st century mindset? I have a hard time imagining these people ever going to the bathroom or how much trouble they would have getting me out of the holodeck! I can’t watch this Star Trek and not lament about our own world and how far short we are of this 24th century idyllic existence and how distant the gap is as far as our technology and our maturation as a species. Maybe, such a leader as Jean Luc Picard is impractical in reality, but it is sure an attractive model and one that I would certainly like to emulate