The 2016 Presidential election has brought together two candidates who represent very different paths for America. Neither candidate is perfect, and both candidates have serious character flaws that give reason for voters to have doubt and concern. But, what the presidential candidates offer America is an opportunity to reflect on what real leadership is and why America needs real leadership more than ever before.
There are two competing views about leadership. The first view is that leadership can be honed and developed, but that leadership has to be there in the first place. This is the view that would say, “that person is a born leader”, or conversely, “that person does not have what it takes to be a leader”. The second view of leadership is that leadership can be taught, trained, and developed just like any other skill. Through effort, hard work, and a willingness to learn from mistakes, anybody can become a leader. Both views represent parts of leadership and need to be considered in order to better understand what real leadership is.
Some people are more predisposed to leadership than others. This can be seen by a young athlete who steps up to the line first, a student who jolts his hand up to answer a question, or a young volunteer who goes on a mission trip to a foreign land in order to serve others. Sometimes, people just seem to have that spark that many of us would call leadership. But, this does not mean that becoming a leader is unattainable for the rest of us. Every person has the basic seeds of leadership and how these seeds are developed and nurtured will determine to what extent an individual becomes a leader. Some leaders are born out of calamity, happenstance, or determination, but the path towards leadership begins when an individual decides that he is going to do what it takes to become a leader.
Unfortunately, there are many wrong views of what leadership is. The current presidential candidates embody a set of traits and behaviors that do not exemplify what real leadership looks like. Real leadership is not about bravado or being the alpha-male. A true leader does not beat his own chest in order to raise himself up while putting others down. Similarly, a real leader does not deny responsibility, blame others, and change course just because public opinion has changed. Bullying and crassness are not the cornerstones of a leader, nor are lies and corruption. Real leadership does not create resentment to garner a following that is based on envy, greed, and divisive rhetoric. A person does not become a leader by the amount of dollars he has, who she is associated with, or because of previous roles. Real leadership is not about having position or tenure, it is not a right or an entitlement, and it is not something to be used for personal gain.
Real leadership creates a compelling vision and influences others to follow that vision. That vision must benefit the common good, be honorable and just, and have a foundation of moral virtue. Leadership takes courage to say and do the right things, even when there is fierce opposition. Leadership is a journey of self-correction that requires the leader to step outside of himself in order to receive criticism, learn from mistakes, and find meaning from trying situations. Effective leaders are more interested in helping others than helping themselves—a real leader does not run for politics or start a company out of selfish motives. Leaders take on endeavors in order to create value, empower others, and benefit individuals across society. Leadership requires a high tolerance for uncertainty, risk, and chaos, because a leader charts an unprecedented path while taking responsibility for himself, others, and the vision.
America is at a turning point and the 2016 election shows a dire need for real leadership in the United States. Millennials represent the largest generation since the Baby Boomers and the calamities facing this country are extraordinary. As America looks for its next generation of leaders, Millennials should be asking themselves who among us will become the next George Washington, Calvin Coolidge, or Ronald Reagan. Millennials ought to reflect on what qualities a good leader possesses, if one has those qualities, and what one needs to do in order to attain or improve those qualities. America needs real leaders if we want to continue being the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. America needs real leaders if we want to continue being a bastion of light in a dark world, a beacon of hope and freedom to the downtrodden and oppressed, and a place of liberty and equality for all. The weight of this responsibility is on the shoulders of this Millennials and the future of America depends on the real leaders who come from the Millennial Generation.
Greg is a California native, husband, and father of three lovely daughters. He is a graduate from San Jose State University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Liberty University. He has authored articles on health & fitness, economics, and technology. Greg consults to Fortune 100 companies, is Chairman of the Board for Arizona Right to Life, and looks forward to the day when abortion is unthinkable, which will be within our lifetime. Find Greg on Linked In.