Archived Story

Finding real leaders

Published 4:17pm Tuesday, November 23, 2010

America’s holiday season is now under way and we’re beginning to see some light at the end of the “Great Recession.” Unfortunately, the light is dim and still pretty far away. What is disturbing about this “Great Recession” is that it was created by a lack of private sector leadership and a lack of good governance. As I sit and reflect on where we are as a nation and where we are as a community, there seems to be a huge disconnect between business, politics, governance and the reality of community.
Maybe the disconnect is rooted in a fundamental failure by politicians and community leaders to understand what it takes for success. Success is the result of visionary people of good will understanding and meeting the challenges. Poor leaders think the position gives them power and vision. Great leaders know it’s not the position, but the people that empower and vision is the result of understanding what is realistically possible. Being appointed or elected to a position is nothing more than being given a license to learn. And the view from outside the process is not always the right view.
On the other side, part of the equation is that “we the people” must pick great leaders from the masses. This has become extremely difficult in a high tech society where we appear to be easily swayed by meaningless rhetoric, sound bites, internet propaganda and absurd “talk show” hosts. As a country we seem primed for a despotic leader because we swing to extremes so easily and are prone to ideologies that seem to offer simple solutions to increasingly complex challenges.
Our leadership since 1980 has let us all down and “killed the goose that laid the golden egg.” Short-sighted ideologies that have been driven by self-absorbed and self-serving leadership have brought us here. We need to be a smarter nation and recognize that what we’ve been doing does not work and that the world and our place in it have changed. Our whole notion of what makes a good leader is no longer valid and hasn’t been for quite some time.
So how can we learn to spot the leaders we can count on to bring our nation back to greatness? Our own communities give us a place to start. In your community there are people that give year in and year out, day after day. They give of themselves to make their communities better. They give to improve the quality of life for themselves and their neighbors. They give even when the outcome is not necessarily in their own personal interest.
They are special people who have vision and understand that they can and do make a difference and find great satisfaction in the successes. They work not just with volunteers but with government, businesses, religious organization and institutions. They respect and understand that each organization, government entity and individual is a resource that can bring value and quality to every endeavor. They commit to making all the resources work together.
They continue to learn throughout their lives and carefully consider what others know and are willing to share. They get great satisfaction in serving their fellow human beings. They demonstrate every day that their motivations can be trusted even if they change their mind about what is the best solution. They are real leaders.
During this time of year, the real leaders of our communities are busy trying to improve the lives of the less fortunate who are in need of compassion from their fellow human beings. They are also working to improve the quality of the holiday season for us all. They aren’t running around making political points with sound bites and photo opportunities. Find them and you will find the real leaders that can make us a better country.
And from me, I wish you a very happy holiday season.
Rodney Gibson is the former mayor of Saluda.

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