Stop referring to politicians as “Leaders”!!

Spoiler alert: this blog will not be partisan!

I wince every time I hear someone say, “Your leaders in Washington”.  Governance is not leadership, in any way, shape, or form. I don’t care which branch of government we are talking about, our elected representatives are not our “Leaders”.

Bottom line up front: Leaders earn that title by inspiring action in those that they lead toward a specific set of goals.  Even though someone can inspire you without being a leader (such as a sports icon), the inverse is not true.

Now, I will concede that politicians can be leaders of their particular political party, undoubtedly. However; that means that they are inspiring action towards the goals of only 50 percent of the population.  So, although they may be a leader in that respect, they are not leading the nation.

I hear you saying, “But Doc, the President of the United States is the leader of the armed forces!!”. Incorrect.  POTUS is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces.  Command does not necessarily equal leadership.  Command is a designation of responsibility only. Throughout my 32-year military career, I encountered several commanders who were incapable of leading ants to a picnic with a bag of sugar under each arm 

The biggest problem with addressing politicians with the title of “Leader” is that it gives the illusion of authority and elevates them over their constituents.  That is not what the founding fathers wanted. Remember, they fought for independence from a system governed by a monarch and managed by a house of “nobles”. Indeed, the framers saw political office much the same as jury duty or serving in the fire brigade.  It was a public service, nothing more or less.

When you are waiting in line at the post office, or at the DMV, do you see the person behind the counter as your “Leader”? Of course not.  DMV employees are public servants doing a job and drawing a paycheck from the taxpayers. Politicians are no different, and we need to stop placing them on a pedestal. 

I have met several politicians, including a sitting President of The United States.  What I have learned is that they aren’t any smarter or more insightful than the average person.  The problem is, that most people refuse to believe that, because it scares them to death to think that the people governing our country are in no way exceptional.  It’s true.

There are multiple examples of modern-day leadership, in industry, in technology, in academia, in the military, and in sports.  And, occasionally, we do see it in politics as well.  But it is a mistake to link political office with leadership out of hand.

The take away point: don’t diminish what actual leaders do by bestowing that title on those who do not deserve it.  


Addendum:  I was done with this blog and was going to post it, when a news story came out that grabbed my attention and illustrates my point perfectly.  Right now, in the state of North Carolina, a group of politicians have introduced a bill that would lower grading standards in public schools, granting students higher grades for less performance, and would allow students to continue to the next grade level with scores in the 40% range as a passing “D”, instead of the current 60%.  So basically, we would be telling kids that it is perfectly acceptable to be wrong 6 out of 10 times.

Leaders are supposed to inspire their followers to achieve more than they think is possible,  not encourage followers to perform at the bare minimum and then lower the standard on what that minimum is.

Is this politics?  Absolutely it is!  Is it leadership? Not by any stretch of the imagination!  This is the exact opposite of leadership.  Here is a link to the article that describes this asinine political stunt aimed at appealing to the lowest common denominator.