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Friday, June 18, 2010

Leaders Lead

The art of leadership is identifying what needs to be done, laying out a compelling vision, and then inspiring others to work toward executing that vision. Therefore I would argue that the reason that citizens are expressing displeasure in their elected officials is because they are failing in all three of the components of leadership.

You name any issue being debated today and those elected to serve fail in almost all three. And in some cases they have misidentified what needs to be done or at least that they have the authority to do something about the issue. For instance, the tenth amendment of the US Constitution states that powers not granted to the national government nor prohibited by the states are reserved to the state governments or the people of the states. Where does the US Government get the authority to provide funding to foreign nations? Where does the power to mandate healthcare coverage come from?

State government officials (I refuse to call the majority of them leaders) are just as guilty of failing my self-defined three components of leadership. Consider the issue of providing education to Georgia’s children. We have just closed a legislative session where education funding was once again obliterated. Rather than reducing funding as the only means to budget reconciliation, they could have moderated SPLOST rules to allow for funds to be used for operational needs in these times and not solely capital projects.

Consider the healthcare budget shortfall issue. The “leadership” did correctly identify the problem – they needed more money. But the solutions offered were not visionary and not inspirational in execution. They mandated through coercion and threats that the 1.6% bed tax would be agreed to by all or else. In other words, pass the buck to the paying citizens while claiming you did not raise taxes.

Need another example – consider transportation funding. We the State Representatives and State Senators will not raise taxes but we will ask you the citizens divided into twelve different regions to pass a referendum voluntarily taxing yourselves an additional 1% sales tax. Where is the vision? Where is the inspiration of those joining to insure that this great approach is executed?

And finally the issue of immigration…. there are no doubt hundreds of opinions about all that is covered under the term immigration and even more opinions about the approach to the problem the State of Arizona has taken. But under my suggestion that Leaders Lead and that leadership is in fact problem identification, the creation of a visionary approach to fixing the problem, and the inspiration of those necessary to execute the vision – the leadership of the state of Arizona pass all three components.

As the federal government turns a blind eye to the immigration debate, Arizona officials have determined that something needs to be done and are doing it. As a recent article in The Economist notes, the approach that Arizona is taking is not necessarily the right or best approach, but nonetheless their actions have finally created a needed national debate again.

The American citizen is tired of the politics as usual. They are tired of our federal officials putting their collective noses where don’t belong and not focusing on the things they should. And both parties are to blame. Neither has offered well thought out solutions to our problems, but continue to espouse party line clich├ęs and sound bites.

Back to the issues facing Georgia … Are those running for statewide office communicating they understand the issues facing Georgia? Are they offering solutions? And are they able to inspire the rest of us to get on board to help lead us out of the mess we are in?

One of my favorite movies is The American President starring Michael Douglas. In the movie, President Andrew Sheppard says “America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's going to put up a fight.” Americans, Georgians, and all citizens of every state are starving for leadership. We want leaders working together to accurately identify our core issues. We want them to develop visionary solutions to solving those issues. And we want to be inspired to action.

Over the next few months, each of us have the opportunity to exercise a sacred right granted to us as Americans. The recent 9th Congressional district election indicated that we either don’t believe our votes matter or we were comfortable that any of those on the ballot represented the values or political positions of our community due to the abysmal voter turnout across the district and especially in Whitfield County.

Let me join Mayor Pennington and others in challenging Whitfield County to step up and vote for our next US Congressman in the June runoff. We need to send a leader to Washington who will fight for us and represent us, not the special interest groups. And then in July we need to exercise our right again in determining the right leaders that we feel can lead our nation, our state, our county government, and our county schools.

Our future will be determined by our actions today! We must mandate that leaders lead!

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