Guest Opinions

Looking for a few good leaders: Our leadership vacuum is a threat to humanity

Cecil Andrus was the right leader for Idaho at the right time, writes Christopher Volk. Pat Johnson wore this autographed campaign button from Gov. Andrus’ 1986 campaign, displayed at his memorial service at Boise State Aug. 31.
Cecil Andrus was the right leader for Idaho at the right time, writes Christopher Volk. Pat Johnson wore this autographed campaign button from Gov. Andrus’ 1986 campaign, displayed at his memorial service at Boise State Aug. 31. kjones@idahostatesman.com

Where have all the leaders gone?

There are plenty of people in positions of power and authority today. But are they true leaders? Are we ready to support, trust and follow them with conviction?

A 2014 survey at the prestigious World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, revealed that 86 percent of the 1,200 participants surveyed believe a global leadership crisis poses a “serious challenge to prospects for tackling the world’s most pressing and dire challenges.”

Since then we have witnessed world leaders behaving badly in Turkey, North Korea, Syria, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

Blame the internet and social media and the normalization of all media and messages. Blame advertising and the rise of the “me” generation. Blame blatant self-interest caused by the fading of virtues and the crumbling foundations of personal character. Whatever the causes, the effect is obvious: The wrong people are occupying elevated positions, and they are not doing the right things for the right reasons.

With the recent passing of Cecil Andrus, former Idaho governor and secretary of the Interior, Idaho lost a true statesman, a master of Western leadership. His many contributions resulted from his dedication to service and willingness to comprehend complex issues. He worked patiently and resolutely to improve our world.

Yet memories of Cece Andrus are illuminated more by his character traits than his impressive list of accomplishments. Andrus was of the generation celebrated by retired newsman Tom Brokaw in his best-selling book “The Greatest Generation.” Andrus was respected for his respect of others. He was heard because he listened. He succeeded because he was willing to compromise to offer benefits to all constituents.

Phillip Eastman is a former Boise bank executive and now a well-respected leadership consultant. His book, “The Character of Leadership: An Ancient Model for a Quantum Age,” outlines seven attributes that must be present and perfected for leaders to excel: justice, temperance, hope, wisdom, love, courage and faith.

Note that physical strength, fame, power, money, influence, charisma, ego and other traits are missing. There are so many misconceptions about leadership. True leaders come in many forms. Sadly, history is studded with narcissistic, psychopathic power mongers. It’s puzzling how so many very bad leaders have managed to capture the hearts and minds of so many misguided followers. Ultimately, these evil actors are always undone and disgraced. However, their paths of death and destruction are shameful reminders of our reluctance to intervene early.

Throughout history the demons, demagogues and despots shrink by comparison with benevolent leaders such as Gandhi and his daughter Indira Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and so many others. Too often, however, we’re too late in recognizing the subtle insights and capabilities within good leaders. Perhaps because they don’t immediately appear strong or confident. Or because we expect easy answers to difficult problems. Or because someone else is better looking or judged to be more successful.

Due to our reluctance to accept change and adapt, the legacies of history’s best leaders often form in their wakes — literally after their death and eventual martyrdom.

So what we need today is more and better leaders. We know that leaders are not born, but made. They are shaped by their parents, teachers and mentors. Leaders are coached, encouraged and challenged. They are also supported and given early roles where they can perfect their skills. Most of all, the best leaders are innately compelled to improve their circumstance and the situations of others without the need to claim credit or seize an unfair share of the benefit for themselves.

This is a call for help. Please help identify and promote good leaders to replace the bad ones and fill the voids where leadership is so obviously lacking. And don’t be afraid to step up yourself. Don’t wait for “somebody” to do something.

“Your job is to figure certain things out,” New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote in his 2015 book “The Road to Character.” “What does this environment need in order to be made whole? What is it that needs repair? What tasks are lying around you waiting to be performed?”

Christopher Volk of Boise is a real estate adviser with SVN | Intermountain Investments, Inc.

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