Dire Need for Leadership

Some people have an uncanny knack for good timing, and Lee Iacocca certainly falls into that category. I’ve reviewed his latest best seller, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, on our web site and shared a few excerpts from those pages here on our blog. I think his choice of a title has really seized the attention of many in today’s chaotic environment. We’re reminded daily in the media that his rhetorical question is becoming more applicable every day and the answer to that question is alluding us more and more at the same time. The examples are ceaseless and many are reaching the level of being hard to believe. For instance:

Headlines and news reports revealed that screeners at many of the nation’s busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in numerous tests. Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that were hidden under clothing or in carry-on bags in more than 70 tests! That means that 3 out of 4 potential terrorists made it safely through security and onto planes with their bombs. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport wasn’t much better as screeners missed 60% of hidden bomb materials in the 75 attempts that were made there! While this is obviously frightening to anyone who hears it, it’s also rather ironic.

On my recent trip to Seattle, I set off the alarms as I attempted to board my flight and was required to go through the apparatus a second time. Again alarms. I was taken into another line to be searched more extensively. It was quickly discovered that a package of chewing gum in my jacket pocket set off the alarm due to the foil in the package. There’s a valuable lesson to be learned here. If you ever see me on an airplane, you can rest assured that asking me for a stick of gum is a legitimate waste of your time and energy. However, there a 75% chance that you’ll be sitting next to a terrorist with sufficient materials in his/her carry-on luggage to construct a bomb! Go figure! Lines are longer at every airport in the nation. New technology is being developed regularly. More money and training is being provided for screeners. Passengers are undergoing more and more scrutiny than ever before, and yet we’re asked to accept a 75% failure rate. “Where Have All The Leaders Gone?”

Here’s another example which leads me to believe that we’re becoming apathetic to the lack of leadership in this country. I was struck with a chilling revelation while watching a recent Presidential Debate on television. As the commentator was introducing the candidates, he made certain he included their current or past occupations. Hearing this information about this particular party immediately prompted me to research the opposing party as well. A quick tally of results revealed that of the 16 current candidates (8 from each party), we have:

  • 1 Former Mayor
  • 2 Former Governors
  • 1 Current Governor
  • 2 Former Senators
  • 5 Current Senators
  • 5 Representatives

Irony was obviously evident as I remember reading that the most recent confidence rating for Congress dropped to 14% … the lowest in the history of the Gallup Poll! Consider the significance of this revelation! Many of those responsible for the lowest approval rating in the history of the Congress are among those who are currently competing for the highest office in the country! The winner will, in essence, become the most powerful leader in the world. Consider that person’s track record.

It was very interesting to hear those candidates involved in the televised debate rant and rave about the current conditions in our country. Everything seems to be in dire straights including the economy, immigration, the tax structure, trade balance, the energy crisis, health care, education, social security, Iraq/Iran/Russia/China, the mortgage crisis and anything else you might want to add to that list. In watching this debate and the previous debate of the other party, I couldn’t help but wonder if those involved as well as those of us watching realized that the majority of these “voices of wisdom” in the debate are members of the do-nothing Congress which recently produced the lowest confidence rating in history. If leadership existed in the Congress, the above conditions wouldn’t be at such a critical level. They’re all very quick to criticize but slow to act if they act at all. And we’re being asked to choose our next President from among these ranks! What can you possibly expect in the future?

By the way, we’re not discussing political parties here. We’re discussing leadership, and I must admit that both parties are fiercely competing for the title of Most Incompetent! I repeat, “Where Have All The Leaders Gone?”

“By not demanding accountability, you fail to protect your people from their own incompetence.”

~ General Norman Schwartzkoph

We see the same examples in the business world today at a time when we certainly can’t afford it. At a time when leadership, mission, vision, beliefs and values should be created, shared, and supported at every level of the organization, we see less evidence of that than ever before. I shudder when I hear leaders say they lack the time, resources and/or funds for that kind of focus in these competitive times. The obvious rebuttal to that statement is that if you don’t find the time, resources, and/or funds for that focus … you simply won’t be around to worry about competition. It’s always interesting to observe that the most successful organizations in every industry never hesitate to focus on these critical aspects of success and share them with staff members at every level. Others will never learn.

Into which of these two groups does your organization fall?

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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