Whiting column: Effective leaders becoming harder to find | PostIndependent.com

Whiting column: Effective leaders becoming harder to find

Bryan Whiting

Whatever happened to leadership. It’s so scarce, it’s an endangered species.

Personal responsibility involves leadership. It not only applies to politicians, but employers, supervisors and our relationships with friends, neighbors and acquaintances.

Why is effective leadership a scarce commodity? It’s difficult. It involves possessing and modeling numerous uncommon characteristics and values.

Effective leaders know how to subjugate their ego when making and implementing decisions. They work for the benefit of those they lead, whether it be constituents, employees, customers or even colleagues. Sadly, this may explain why it is rare for politicians to be good leaders. They tend to be “I “ oriented not “you” oriented.

Effective leaders are willing to act. They realize nothing occurs or changes without action. They aren’t afraid of failure, because their actions aren’t motivated by egocentricity. They gather and consider information from other sources, make a decision and learn regardless if the result is that which they desired. Their action may not produce the desired result, but in doing the wrong thing for the right reason, they can learn and move on.

They apply the same reality to actions of those they lead. If berated or penalized for a mistake or bad decision, they soon won’t be doing anything for their leader other than what they are specifically required or told to do; hardly innovative or motivating.

Effective leadership isn’t fear-based. We all respond best and work harder for those we trust and work for us. Growing up on a ranch, breaking horses was a part of life. There were two methods. One involved bucking out the horse. If bucked off, I or someone else would get right back on. The process continued until the fatigued horse submitted.

The other was gentling the horse with consistent human contact through months of words, touch, feed and attention. Over time, the horse grew to trust and rely on us. One day, we would gently lay a saddle blanket on the horse while walking it around accompanied by the usual words, touch, feed and attention. After a week, we would lay one leg on the blanket while the other remained on the fence. In another week, a saddle was added to the blanket. The subsequent week, weighted saddle bags went across the saddle. The next week, I or someone replaced the saddle bags.

Both produced a functional horse. Bucking out required far less time, but we soon determined the second method produced a more reliable horse easily trained to rein, rope or other functions. The horse trusted us, and we could better trust the horse. It could be counted on under pressure, when the heat was on.

The bucked out horse was broken, but additional training required more “fear” accomplished with harsh physical contact, spurs and words. Under pressure they weren’t as reliable. The same applies to people. We seldom work harder, better or do extra based on fear.

Effective leaders are respected. Weak leaders may attempt to demand respect in a variety of methods, but true respect is voluntarily granted.

Leaders are empathetic. They have the capacity to either live in someone else’s shoes or at least accept the shoes have validity and take that into consideration.

Leadership involves the ability to build consensus, which explains why there has been little agreement in Congress. The left wing and the right wing have to work together if a bird or airplane is to fly. It’s been decades since a leader possessed the ability to convince our elected officials the same applies to our legislative bodies if they are to function as intended.

The old saying “just because you are in the oven, doesn’t make you a biscuit” also applies. Because you have a title or are in a leadership position, doesn’t make you a true leader.

The secret to effectiveness in any specific leadership position, is asking “What can I do to help?” and following up with sincere action.

Everyone not only desires, but craves a leader. As the gravity of their situation increases, their craving increases proportionately. In the absence of leadership, they will follow anything; seeking leadership in any form. A hot, exhausted man in the desert without food and water will see a mirage. It’s an illusion; a figment of his imagination developed because he desires to see the oasis with its water and shade. His brain is working to provide what it thinks it needs. He would crawl across broken glass to get to the oasis and attempt to drink the sand.

Not finding a quality leader, people will follow anyone as evidenced by Hitler, Jim Jones and others throughout history. It’s the basis for gangs. They search for lonely people disenfranchised with their situation, not feeling in control, without a path, and meet their need.

In the absence of true leadership, people seeking a better way will put their values in the backseat, not think rationally and follow anyone, because they can’t tell the difference; as the man in the desert can’t tell the difference between the water and sand.

This accentuates our personal responsibility to not only follow leaders possessing these desired characteristics, but find and develop those that do. Personal responsibility can also mean our assuming this leadership role.

Bryan Whiting feels most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of non-partisan economics rather than by government intervention. Comments and column suggestions to: bwpersonalresponsibility@gmail.com.

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