May 17, 2013
By Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., Ed.D. President Association of Benefit Administrators
In 1969, the author David Halberstam wrote a book entitled, "The Best and the Brightest." In praising the book, The New York Post critic stated that "I predict that this brilliant and unsparing book will stir the conscience of the next generation if not of this."
Unfortunately, the jury is out on this prediction as is so clearly evident today. I would submit that we are in the era of "lackluster leadership."
Throughout history, commonly used words or phrases have a tendency to disappear due to their lack of use or the culture has changed so dramatically that they no longer have the same meaning. I believe that anthropologists are familiar with and study this phenomenon.
An action or event that becomes part of history fades from our collective memory and the words that define those actions are relegated to the hall of fame of used or discarded vocabulary.
I have discovered a phrase that no longer has meaning in our current-day vernacular. It is "extraordinary leadership." It fell off the radar screen quite a number of years ago and, today, we wouldn't recognize it if it smacked us in the face! The "best and the brightest," apparently, have gone underground.
The need for bold initiatives is so prevalent today but you would never know it predicated on the behavior of our political leaders in Washington.
They, like anthropologists, can't seem to find it's meaning.
Leadership is a quality that one learns over a period of years. It comes as a result of experience and observation of others' behavior. Some say leaders are born. Some say it comes from on the job training by laboring in the field and by recognizing what has to be done and taking action. Perhaps, it may be a combination.
Whatever contributes to extraordinary leadership has disappeared and it is imperative that we search it out of its hiding place.
People have a tendency to call for leadership on a whole host of challenges facing us. Few, if any, have the guts to step up and seize the opportunity to lead. To think and behave differently.
Today, we find ourselves in a dark and abysmal wasteland and the horizon is cloudy and a long way off.
Conscious and deliberate individuals will get us to the horizon. We just have to seek them out and emboldened them with the courage to take on the characteristics of a leader and get us through this terrible period.
New ideas and new ways of looking at issues or problems require thoughtful leadership. Mark Zuckerberg the CEO of Facebook promotes the idea that people should "move fast and break things," that they should not be afraid to be agents of change. It is an imperative that is long overdo and failure to take on the mantle of leadership should not be an option.