What makes a good leader?

With all the campaigning and media coverage happening in the U.S. right now, I can’t help but keep the idea of elections and leadership on my mind. Nothing seems to disappoint people more than campaign promises that aren’t met. We tend to gauge a successful term for an individual by asking: what did he/she do and where is the change or continuity? Platform promises are impractical, and I will tell you why.

Election time is filled with good intentions, but realistically how much can a person truly accomplish when there are many other considerations. For example, what was done previously in that office; have mandates or priorities changed since elected; what type of people make up the decision-making authority because as important as it is that a leader have independent views, it would be terrible if he/she had absolute discretion to decide solely on our behalves.

We consistently set ourselves up for failure through unrealistic expectations. We share unreasonable beliefs about what we expect as a society and worse yet, impose them upon our leaders and politicians. We expect them to promise us the world, to be a martyr for our shortcomings and have the solutions to all our problems. We leave no room for humility or imperfection in those we elect, and in doing that we wash our hands of accountability.

Our compliance to believe in that process translates into us electing representatives who present a false pride, having internalized those perceptions. It’s a sad notion to have a state where representatives seem to put reputation before responsibility, in all matters, albeit personally or professionally because of image. When important decisions are made with image in mind it keeps us in an oppressive state and we suffer.

We need to elect people who are honest with themselves and with the people. We determine what we will stand for and what we will settle for. Sometimes I wonder if we want a public relations person who attends events and makes the Kodak moments instead of a person who has the true responsibility of leadership.

I don’t want a leader who is preoccupied with how many people he/she can impress, who takes credit and signs his/her name to work he/she hasn’t actually done, who is never in his/her own office or who feeds people’s hopes with promises of money as our only solution.

I don’t want a leader who uses his/her position for favours, incurs a large expense account or food budget at the cost of the people, uses time, resources and accomplishments of a position to promote then propel into some class of an elite. Leadership roles are fairly compensated, and it is an honour to be elected by the people.

Knowing what a leader is not makes it very clear to me what a leader really is.

I want a leader who knows what he/she knows because he/she generates ideas, not because a lawyer or consultant briefed him/her or gave him/her direction. A person who is balanced and healthy, who is aware of what is happening, knows what needs to be done, listens to the people and leads us there with the gift of vision.

I want leaders who are clean and free from any alcohol or drug abuse, like that of our regional leaders who live healthy lives and can think from a clear mind in that respect. I am disappointed we can elect people to lead and represent our communities who get drunk or high while there are great problems with addictions and abuse occurring in our communities and homes.

People place a great deal of confidence in their leaders; they hold the power of persuasion and influence, which is a huge responsibility. It is easy to become corrupted with perceived power. We all know someone who entered politics with good intentions only to change and become inflicted with arrogance and false pride.

For many, it seems to boil down to what people perceive leadership to be. We should all take responsibility to be more realistic, otherwise we are just setting ourselves up for failure. We need to change our view on what leadership is and does. We all have gifts to contribute to our society; a leader has gifts that are more apparent, not more important.

Being a leader does not make you exempt from the same issues everyone else faces. Let’s not pretend. We invest a bit of ourselves into the person we elect. We say we want someone who will create change, but that is lip service. We still expect perfection from one person because we fear it will reflect badly on our own real issues. We still elect people who perpetuate the beliefs we have on them.

Our limitations and expectations hold us back. Once we can acknowledge this, we can move forward. Change is not bad. Change is good. Change is inevitable. Change is necessary.

A good leader is humble and honest, and a good membership is realistic and accepting.