Whiting column: Leadership is the key to political change

Bryan Whiting
Personal Responsibility

A scarce commodity is not only valuable, but provides the opportunity for the charlatan, the imposter.

This is especially true of leadership. Most significant group accomplishments result from its presence. Its absence has resulted in the non-functioning partisan environment in Congress, most states and the world.

Leaders must choose between yesterday and tomorrow. Poor ones take the safe route and continue the status quo. In today’s political environment, the safe route is habiting one of two extreme political positions and parties because either extreme position is known, comfortable and acceptable to a vocal group of people. Staying there doesn’t involve the risk of change that might mean a better tomorrow for the whole.

Leadership is always sought, frequently assumed, seldom present. In its absence, we desperately seek anything that claims to be it, looks like it, says they’re it. We can be so starved for it we allow ourselves to be deceived.

A man was lost for three weeks in the Alaskan interior when his snow machine broke down. When found, he was 25 miles from the snowmachine eating moose dung. When asked why he had walked so far, he said “I had three days of food. After a week, I was starving, but saw McDonalds golden arches in the distance. I wanted these hamburgers.” The mirage he saw wasn’t there, but his mind wanted it so bad he not only saw it but when he got there, he was so hungry he couldn’t tell the difference.

Gangs exist because those feeling lost, lack success or recognition in their lives find an association, a leader they can identify with. It’s inherent in our nature.

Governing through adversarial positions and actions isn’t effective. Dictatorial action may make something happen but is seldom acceptable to the reasonable or effective in the long term.

Extremes identify the parameters within which good sense abides, but leadership can provide the commonsense areas between the extremes which we can adapt and support to make solutions suitable, practical and doable.

Effective leaders not only know their own mind, but approach challenges from a position of empathy and a need to know opposing opinions. An understanding of the opposition is required, as well as motivation to meet the needs of the majority in the middle, which expands for the good of the whole. Such hard work and subservience are difficult.

If change is desired, one can’t show up to an emotionally charged discussion with a list of demands, seeing everyone as an enemy. Egotistical, political or partisan needs must be subordinate to human needs and practical implementation. It’s the only way democracy can function and survive when only two parties exist.

Remember, if one party has the President, House and Senate, the effective result is dictatorship.

In the Declaration of Independence, founding fathers merged opinions to recognize our unifying humanity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by the creator with certain unalienable rights of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness.” Solving differences requires leaders to think like a spouse; the other becomes the priority requiring actions, not words, toward that end if effective solutions are to result.

We are close to losing our national identity. It’s happened before. Lincoln fought the Civil War to protect unity in our nation by freeing it from the shamefulness of slavery. “With malice toward none, charity for all, firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace not only among all nations, but starting with ourselves.” 

Lincoln had a cabinet of rivals, not chosen to repay political debt but because they were experts in their field. Lincoln listened to their divergent views and led them to developing solutions for the good of the nation.

Compromise isn’t weakness when it achieves public interest. It requires strength, maturity, exemplifying the ability to bend. Blanket denial isn’t an effective strategy. People hold different views and situations. Consequently, blanket denial isn’t an effective strategy without utilizing dictatorial methods.

Business learned differing heterogenous views resulted in improved products and procedures. The inclusivity of thoughts means understanding not dismissal, modifying not caving in.

The memorable leaders in our lives, whether it be teacher, coach, pastor, parent, employer, didn’t need notes when they talked to you. They didn’t need someone telling them what to say, didn’t look at polls or act to assuage their ego. They were most concerned about us. Their goal was to help us.

Democracy can’t be an internal war between sides but rather a network of give and take.

If a democracy “of the people, by the people and for people” is to endure it requires leaders to have the maturity and passion to work for the good of the average person instead of their ego or party. It’s our personal responsibility to demand political leaders demonstrating these characteristics.

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

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.