Strategic communication is at the core of effective leadership. Through a leader’s use of verbal and written symbols employees are motivated or deflated, informed or confused, productive or apathetic. A leader’s ability to carve off the verbal fat and get to the meat of an issue, idea or plan will find success at every turn.
A sense of humor can be a great help–particularly a sense of humor about (oneself). William Howard Taft joked about his own corpulence and people loved it; took nothing from his inherent dignity. Lincoln eased tense moments with bawdy stories, and often poked fun at himself–and history honors him for this human quality. A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.
Throughout the ages, leadership and courage have often been synonymous. Ultimately, leadership requires action: daring to take steps that are necessary but unpopular, challenging the status quo in order to reach a brighter future.
The primitive and often even atavistic aspects of the battlefield test the physical and mental agility of everyone, but most of what it tests is the courage and the spiritual side of the troops we put in harm’s way. And oftentimes it’s only unit cohesion, leadership and the belief in themselves and their comrades that allows them to go through what they have to go through and come home as better men and women, not as broken. And so the Warrior Ethos is not a luxury, it is essential when you have a military.
When we consider the founders of our nation: Jefferson, Washington, Samuel and John Adams, Madison and Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine and many others; we have before us a list of at least ten and maybe even dozens of great political leaders. They were well educated. Products of the European Enlightenment, they were students of history. They knew human fallibility and weakness and corruptibility. They were fluent in the English language. They wrote their own speeches. They were realistic and practical, and at the same time motivated by high principles. They were not checking the pollsters on what to think this week. They knew what to think. They were comfortable with long-term thinking, planning even further ahead than the next election. They were self-sufficient, not requiring careers as politicians or lobbyists to make a living. They were able to bring out the best in us. They were interested in and, at least two of them, fluent in science. They attempted to set a course for the United States into the far future ? not so much by establishing laws as by setting limits on what kinds of laws could be passed. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights have done remarkably well, constituting, despite human weaknesses, a machine able, more often than not, to correct its own trajectory. At that time, there were only about two and a half million citizens of the United States. Today there are about a hundred times more. So if there were ten people of the caliber of Thomas Jefferson then, there ought to be 10 x 100 = 1,000 Thomas Jefferson’s today. Where are they?
It was a false maxim of Domitian that he who would gain the people of Rome must promise all things and perform nothing. For when a man is known to be false in his word, instead of a column, which he might be by keeping it, for others to rest upon, he becomes a reed, which no man will vouchsafe to lean upon. Like a floating island, when we come next day to seek it, it is carried from the place we left it in, and, instead of earth to build upon, we find nothing but inconstant and deceiving waves.
Leadership is a commitment to an idea, to a dream, and to a vision of what can be. And my dream is for my land and my people to cease fighting and allow our children to reach their full potential regardless of sex, status, or belief.