"Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and
character. But if you
2004 signals the start of yet another agonizing election
year. As I listen to the political
rhetoric from a seemingly never ending campaign trail, I continually hear calls
from and for politicians and pundits alike to stick to the issues, discuss
policy and specific ideas instead getting into personal attacks.
Personal attacks being defined as any question that touches on
character—even if that question of character is based on verifiable fact, past
actions or words of the candidates themselves.
In my view however, character is the very essence of
leadership—the source and shaper of a person’s judgment, trustworthiness and
honor. By far, character is the most important issue we should be
evaluating in choosing our leaders—much more so than all this tripe about
specific positions on policy or strategy.
A politician’s position on any single issue can change
more frequently in Washington than the position of the pigeons that festoon the
capital dome—and I don’t say that in a disparaging way.
Specific policy details are based on the fluid national and international
scene, circumstances dependent on an infinite number of variables that are often
times outside the control of any politician.
Therefore it is unreasonable to expect any candidate to be able to tell
you with a high degree of specificity what detailed policy he will support over
his elected term in any selected situation or on any issue.
Besides, how do we know that what they say today, they will or can
actually do tomorrow?
The closest we can come to gaining insight into how someone
will act in office is by closely examining the general philosophy with which the
candidate views life and how they have actually lived their life.
With what internal make up and set of eyes does he or she view the world
and life in general? Past behavior
provides the best insight of the person, their capabilities, reflects their
character and is by far, the best indicator of future behavior.
As Patrick Henry said in 1774:
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided and
that is the lamp of experience. I
know of no other way of judging the future but by the past.
I look at this in the same way I selected key NCOs and
young officers for positions of leadership within my units.
After seeing evidence of basic military competence, I evaluated the
candidate’s character more than any other attribute.
Character is the foundation of his judgment, honor,
integrity and decision making capability. I
didn’t grill them on what they would do in every conceivable situation over
the next 2-4 years. When I found a
person with the right stuff, I knew I could trust them to make sound decisions,
regardless of the specifics of the situation.
It was the question of character that earned my trust and confidence and
thus determined the final selection.
Character is the word I use to describe the essence and
earthly manifestation of a person’s soul, the source of what they are, that
which forms their behavior—the very font of their being.
It is the basis of that which they draw upon to determine and define what
they call judgment, trust and honor and it is character which will ultimately
determine and guide the strategy of their life—their policies if you will.
A lot goes in to making up one’s character.
You can say it depends on upbringing, what God given values were
instilled in them during their most formative years, what was developed within
as they matured over a lifetime and where they placed their priorities in that
life. One of those characteristics
of very great importance being how they view themselves relative to others,
relative to their job or mission, and relative to God and country.
If they place themselves first, and all else second, and does so
regardless of facts or truth, and has no remorse when they do so, we have
evidence of a sociopath. If however
their character is such that they place themselves fourth in line behind God,
Mission and Others, we have the makings of a leader.
I define God in this case to include not only God
himself, but moral values, honesty and truth.
Mission I see as the job or vocation. Others I categorize, not just as individuals with whom
a person directly interacts, but their fellow countrymen as well.
How they view those three elements relative to self will determine
what is most important in their life, in their make up, and in their foundation.
It is this view that helps drive a person to do the things they do in any
given set of circumstances. It will
be the focus and foundation of their decision-making process and what they will
use as their frame of reference when seeking solutions to the problems they
face. This view becomes the eyes
with which they see the world and defines that world.
Is their world self-centered or mission centered?
Are their priorities based on an ambitious, self-indulging philosophy or
a selfless, serving one? Do they or will they place honor and integrity before
personal interest and ambition in what they have done or anything they will do?
Will they be truthful with those they serve?
If a person’s judgment is guided by and based upon a
solid foundation of honor, integrity, and common sense, what I describe as
character, that person will make sound decisions—decisions made in the best
interest of the country. And if
such a person does not have the expertise necessary to make an informed decision
on some given issue, a person of character will admit it and humbly seek advice
from honorable people who do have the necessary expertise because they know such
decisions are far more important than either public image or self.
If on the other hand, they have no honor, lies when the
truth would suit better, has no moral values, does not put God, mission and
others above self and their own interests or ambitions and has a history of
corruption, I don’t care what they say about policy.
I will never be able to rely on nor trust them to act in the best
interest of America, even if I agree with the details of what they currently say
about policy or strategy. The character of such a person is flawed and they are not
worthy of trust—on anything. The
bible itself addresses this issue:
“If you can trust a man in little things, you can also
trust him in greater; while anyone unjust in a slight matter is also unjust in
Luke 16: 10 ~
I’ve always believed and relied on that sound advice and
still do. If politicians lie
with natural ease about little things, then they have a seriously flawed
character. Consequently, they
can’t be trusted with the greater responsibilities demanded of a leader.
And I suppose it’s evident by now that I don’t buy
these left wing stories we heard during the Clinton impeachment about what the
private man is doesn’t affect what the public man does.
To believe that, you would have to believe that a person has two brains
and two distinct sets of formative life experiences!
I’ve seen fewer bullchips in rodeo stockyards.
A person in a position of leadership that you cannot trust
is not a leader; he is a dangerous pretender—a fraud. I don’t want frauds representing me or leading our country.
I want proven character in our leaders—with or without a current
detailed strategy on every conceivable issue.
For whatever a man or woman is or ever will be depends on
and is determined by character—all that they are, emanates from and is born of
that character. General Schwarzkopf
and I are of like mind in this. If
I had to choose to do without character or strategy in a candidate, I would do
without strategy because solid character will most times spawn solid strategy
but corrupt character spawns only corruption.
Just the view from my saddle…
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