By Rich Kozlovich
For years I’ve observed one incontrovertible fact. Most “leaders”aren’t really leading anyone anywhere! They’re just managers organizing the trip down a path his “followers” are willing to go. Think what would happen if a union president stood up before his membership and told them they should just be glad having a job and quit whining about a raise in salary and benefits. Before he finished that sentence he would have been dragged off the stage and replaced with a demagogue screaming how badly they’re being abused for the paltry money they’re getting. And the masses would have cheered.
What we have here is a problem of definition. Is being a leader the same as being in leadership? Maybe and maybe not!
A favorite uncle of mine used to be a UAW president and was well respected by both management and labor. When he retired both management and labor asked him to stay as they feared what would happen after he left. The plant closed not long after.
He firmly believed in observing the terms of the contract. If management was wrong – they were wrong – period! And he acted accordingly. If the membership was wrong – they were wrong – period! And he acted accordingly. When confronted by radical members he simply said – “We have a contract! And that’s what we’re following!” And that’s what he followed faithfully.
Everyone knew his yes meant yes and his no meant no - he was consistent and he was fair! After taking a strong stand at the beginning of his years as president the membership knew where he stood, as a result many of the problems simply went away. He didn’t believe in greasing squeaks just because they squeaked. And he was re-elected over and over again.
Toward the end of his working career the factories all over the city were closing. He went to a meeting of UAW presidents to discuss what was to be done. All he heard was the same old rhetoric about how they were going to make the companies pay or else. When his turn came to speak he tried to express the obvious – things were different now. He told everyone the unions had a good run and did good things for the membership, but now it was the companies turn and they had to change their views or the end result would be closed factories and lost jobs.
They were outraged calling him a traitor to the union and he should be ashamed to call himself a union man. I asked, “what did you say?” He said – “Nothing! I just sat down”! He knew it was a lost cause and so he put in his retirement papers. And he was right. Factories closed and people lost jobs. A lot of jobs! He was a leader without followers, but he was a leader nonetheless.
The problem with leadership is in ourselves. We have in innate desire to be liked, to be part of a group. That makes it difficult to take positions that will make us unpopular or disliked by the group. Let’s try and understand this very important reality. One of the most important qualities a leader must develop is the willingness to be disliked for long periods of time. Heterodoxy isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s essential to a real leader. The reason I use the world heterodoxy is because it means doing more than just disagreeing. It means taking a stand against the conventional wisdom and having the courage to tell the rest of the world - "You're wrong and I'm going to tell you why".
John Boehner once said a leader without followers is just a man taking a walk. Well, that’s only partially true. Winston Churchill was almost completely alone in his views about Hitler - at least until the crap hit the fan. Then all of a sudden he had a host of followers. Who changed? Did Churchill change or did everyone else change? Was he any different than before? No, he was a leader without followers, but that didn’t change the fact he was a leader. And he was a leader because he never stopped touting his views, even while being disliked and depressed. That’s the difference between being a leader and being in leadership. Eventually those who are right will be leaders in leadership, not managers who are merely prominent. Over the years it’s been my unhappy experience to find many prominent people are only good at being prominent. And why is that? Because it’s about them, not about the mission. Time and reality are on the side of real leaders.
This latest mess in Washington regarding fast track trading is a classic example of “leaders” who are prominent and managing the process without the courage to stand by principles they claimed to believe in while running for office. They’ve lost sight of why they’re there. As one lady said in testimony before Congress a couple of years ago, “You forget yourselves. We don’t work for you, you work for us”.
In the case of fast track trading - how can anyone be for or against a trade agreement that’s a secret. So secret the members of Congress can’t see without all sorts of caveats, and the American public, who are they're employers, can't see it at all. An agreement that may impact the economy for years to come either negatively or positively. One thing I think we can be sure of. There’s a reason it’s being kept from the public’s eyes. Apparently it stinks so badly these “leaders” think only they are qualified to stand the stench without throwing up.
I was recently invited to a meeting where Stephen Moore and a former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission discussed just how out of control the federal government has become, especially this administration, forcing financial decisions on financial institutions for some policy reason or other - including decisions that are clearly detrimental to the stockholders. I commented to him afterward I felt the problem was so large and so complicated the only solution was to repeal the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments. He paused and said, “I agree!"
Do I think there are any real leaders out there today? Yes, but real leaders are never popular because they say things that make people uncomfortable, and people hate that. It’s easier to criticize or laugh at anyone out of step with the conventional wisdom rather than actually think about an issue and change their views. So I offer my nomination for a real leader today.
I nominate Pamela Geller!
Because of her work to expose Islam for what it really is she’s been threatened with beheading by Muslims. Yet she refuses to quietly go into hiding and powerfully states: “I’m a free person and I’m fighting for freedom”, "The last thing I'm going to do is go into hiding." I will not let violent threats intimidate or silence me". I do not want to die, but I will not live as a slave".