For 31 years, I had the privilege of working with club and organizational student leaders at Harper College and providing them guidance as they developed leadership skills. During a typical leadership-training program, one of our first exercises was to identify and discuss role models. Whom did they admire and why? What qualities did they feel made a "good leader" and what flaws or weaknesses described a "bad leader"? Most of the time, positive qualities such as good listener, charismatic, confident, problem solver, fair, good communicator, collaborative, honest, critical thinker and ability to inspire would top the group's list. On the negative side were greedy, opinionated, self-centered, unethical, poor character, poor listener and lacking vision.
At this time, I don't see many of the positive traits mentioned above being practiced in Washington, D.C., and I can't help but believe that many of our students will struggle to identify worthy role models within our government. Daily headlines stress how many of our elected officials are unethical; constantly bicker, name call and are uncivil; cannot find common ground; do not collaborate; are not problem solvers; and do not listen to the needs of their constituents. Besides the obvious economic damage these behaviors produce, I'm concerned about the message it sends to our youngest, most impressionable Americans.
In short, what's the point of leadership training for our students, if as a whole the people they are supposed to learn from are inept and incompetent role models?
It's never too late to re-examine what good leadership is, or to give some somber thought to the fruitless legacy our current government is destined to realize if behavior doesn't change. I hope all of our legislators will take this message to heart and strive to work together to solve the critical problems facing our nation.
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