A young entrepreneur recently asked me what I thought the current US Presidential “race” says about leadership. I wanted to bang my head on the desk and deflect by saying “next question”. Instead I deferred with a “let me think about that and get back to you”.
To paraphrase a recent TV character quote (yes James Lee a pirate quote) — you need two kinds of leadership — one to tell them what to do and a 2nd to tell them why to do it. That’s really kind of profound.
Real leaders lay out a vision. They describe an end state. They lay out specifics of the plans to get there. Once the troops understand the objective and the plan, they solicit input and secure buy-in. Then lastly they fire them up — sending the troops out to slay dragons and bring home the bacon.
In some ways this Presidential race is upside down. A fired up empire with no clear plans is a recipe for a riot.
The campaign does speak volumes though — about not only leadership but also the current willingness of the troops to take on leaders. Like it or not we have a lot of polarized voters, many of who are looking for “different” out of our country’s leadership. I certainly don’t like some of the messages. I have an opinion but I’m just one voice.
But there’s more to leadership than message. You can secure advisors to help reshape messages. You can do R&D, get more educated, and then change your directions and your plans. Leadership is also about motive and tone.
The foundation of military law in the U.S. can be found in the US Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). One of my personal favorites is explained in Article 133: Conduct Unbecoming an Officer.
The elements are:
- That the accused did or omitted to do certain acts; and
- That, in the circumstances, these acts or omissions constituted conduct unbecoming an officer and gentlemen.
Wikipedia explains further — here “officer” is understood to include to include commissioned officers, cadets, and midshipmen of both sexes, hence the more common term of conduct unbecoming. A “gentlemen” is understood to have a duty to avoid dishonest acts, displays of indecency, lawlessness, dealing unfairly, indecorum, injustice, or acts of cruelty.
Leadership is not just what you say — but also how you say it and why. Regretfully, it’s mostly this conduct unbecoming that I take away as my leadership reflection on the current election cycle.