Saturday, March 10, 2012

For the Gipper

"Tell them to go out there, and win one for the Gipper!”

We all respond to rallying cries, it is perhaps something on our make-up. It is certainly part of the American heritage: the tough but determined underdog, fighting against seemingly unbeatable odds, wresting victory from the jaws of defeat.

I bring this up because I have heard a number of politicians lately, not least the President, recently paint 'dooms-day' pictures of the future, then adding something to the effect 'if you vote for me we might stand a chance,' or ‘maybe someday ‘this’ might help.’

Here's the thing: that's not good leadership and it's not even good theater.

People don't respond well to doom and gloom unassociated with a real idea for saving the day. To tell someone the house is burning down and there really may not be a way out, but you should 'follow me anyway' is either narcissism or sociopathic behavior. Leaders don't do that. Leaders have a plan. Real leaders are honest about the problem, but also convincing about the solution, because real leaders have real plans that provide real results and they share them with their followers and their potential followers.

Ronald Reagan had the ability to not only identify the key point – the goal - and focus on it, he also had the ability to construct reasonable plans to achieve that goal. And these weren’t little goals: when the rest of the world believed that the West was locked in a losing struggle with Communism, Reagan saw it otherwise, had a plan, and acted on it. And while the risk was huge (truly existential risk), Reagan always managed to smile, to raise the spirits of those around him.

Leaders can talk about bad situation, leaders can demand increased performance, leaders can insist on sacrifice; but they can’t hope to get anyone to listen if the “reward” for the sacrifice is still doom and gloom. Leaders, and ‘wannabees’ need to be positive and upbeat, no matter how dire the situation. And they also need to make sense – or have such a string of incredible successes that everyone is willing to believe that success will follow – as the night the day – no matter how dire.

And do, to all you politicians out there, the ones who claim to be leaders and the ones who want to be leaders, how about some details? Tell us the plan. We can give Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich full credit for having some real, credible plans that they insist they would enact if elected. Let's get all the politicians to lay out there plans, including the President. And let's get the “children” in the media to stop asking inane questions about ‘your favorite musician’ or ‘first car’ or whatever, and focus on the major issues, and let the politicians display their leadership and their plans - or their lack thereof.

Knute Rockne didn't step into the locker-room and say 'play harder.' He gave them specific instructions. Let's try and think like Knute.


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