Diary

Leadership in the GOP Field

Recently, I have heard one thing fairly consistently regarding the gaggle of GOP candidates for the 2016 nomination for president.  Most conservatives are almost giddy over the strength of the field and say they will be happy with any one of them as the ultimate nominee.

I too am impressed by the depth of the field this year on the GOP side.  There is a lot of varied experience in those running.  Charles Krauthammer said something to the effect that you could take any 12 of the field and create the strongest cabinet that we have seen for many years.

So does it matter who wins the nomination?  I believe it matters a great deal.  While many of the differences in their proposed direction are nuanced, each has his/her own strong suit.  The greatest question in my mind is, “Who will be the best leader?”

I submit that there are four types of leaders who people will follow.  I think you could find examples of each in national politics, in corporations and elsewhere.

The first type of leader uses fear to influence people.  One can immediately think of Hitler, Mao and similar authoritarian leaders.  They are very effective for a time.  However, their influence goes away when people get tired of the stress and stop being afraid.  That is why the most successful are the most ruthless.

The second type of leader is one I would call a situational leader.  This is someone who steps up and is the right person for the time.  The obvious example of the situational leader is Winston Churchill, who almost single-handedly rallied the British people and other nations to stand up and fight back against the Third Reich.  As valuable a leader as this is, he/she is only influential until the situation changes.  After the war, Churchill was cast out with little fanfare.

The third type of leader is what we might call the hero.  These leaders influence others by making them feel good about them (the heroes).  We see this all the time in product promotion.  Tiger Woods’ endorsement was a valuable thing as long as his career was in high gear.  Since his fall from grace, others have taken over as more influential in product sales.  On a political level, I submit that Barak Obama is an example of this kind of leader.  His outstanding oratorical skills and his rhetoric caused so many people to place their hopes in him.  People felt good about the prospect of electing the first African American president and seemed to see in him qualities that evidence suggested were not there.  Once elected, his divisiveness made him less attractive but even then people seemed to want him to succeed and they showed great patience.  Since the 2012 election, however, the polish seems to be wearing off and people see him more for who he is and see his weaknesses more objectively.

The fourth type of leader is commonly called a servant leader.  This is the person who influences others by making them feel good about themselves.  Most people remember that coach or teacher who was so encouraging that it made them want to work harder.  In my memory, the political figure who best fits this description was Ronald Reagan.  He was able to take issues directly to the American people with clarity, showing respect for the ‘common man’ and his ability to grasp challenging, complicated issues and to do the right thing.  He was elected both times in landslides.

So how would our field of candidates fit into such a leadership model?  Those with the power of name recognition and personality would likely fit into that hero leader mold. I think of Donald Trump, whose power of personality is second to none. Perhaps Mike Huckabee, the man who spent years in everyone’s living room as a Fox News commentator, would also fit into the category.  In fact, watching announcement speeches and stump speeches from the majority of the candidates, it seems that most candidates see themselves in this mold or perhaps as prospective situational leaders.  They want to impress the masses with their outstanding past and convince them that they can do the same thing with the United States of America.

One man stands out as a servant leader.  Dr. Ben Carson is the only one of the field who didn’t particularly want to be a presidential candidate.  However, after being convinced by a grassroots draft movement, he announced his candidacy for president with two things in mind.  He wants to save our declining nation and to tear the government away from the political elites and return it to the people as our founding fathers intended.

All candidates will tell you that they are running for the good of the country.  However, for nearly every candidate, the presidency is the culmination of a political career that every politician secretly desires but few even dare hope for.  Others have gained power and influence through the corporate world and see politics, even the presidency, as the next gold ring.  Again, Carson stands out because of his humility.  He has been a man of great renown for many years and yet rather than draw attention to himself, he quietly set up foundations to help and encourage young people to learn and grow.

The final question is this:  What kind of leader do we need at this time? Many might argue that we need a situational leader to bring us out of this difficult time.  Others might say we need that hero who everyone can rally around.  I believe that we need a servant leader now more than ever.  We need someone who can help all citizens see that solutions to our national crises will require sacrifice by everyone.  We need a person who will inspire people from every background to seek self-sufficiency and independence, while working hard to strengthen our country’s foundation.  Only a servant leader will be able to strengthen the United States by developing the character of its people.