Archive for September, 2006

On Leadership

September 8th, 2006

My very first day in hospital employment was as an administrator.  Granted, only one employee reported to me, but, nevertheless, my title, position and responsibilities all screamed out: white collar, exempt employee.

Administrator: one who administers, one who is "in charge of affairs," one who presides over the dispensation of something, one who looks after and tends to the needs of SOMEBODY.

Can leadership be learned?  Absolutely, yes, but only to a point.  First, you need to get the informational base needed to survive in the area you’re administrating.  Then you may work by assisting another leader.  You might run a smaller department or shop, and, in the process of learning, you discover situational ethics, the art of building cohesive support, accountability, et al.

There are many who believe that genes are imperative in this process, but is is my belief that genes alone won’t do it.  Drive, ambition, work ethic, sacrifice and experience help as well.

As a civilization, we tend to run in packs and continuously choose leaders to take us through each day.  Interestingly enough, the higher up you go as a leader, the less important specific subject knowledge usually becomes. The key, however, seems to be the ability for the leader to articulate a vision, to actually have his followers embrace that vision and to have trusted advisers who will be encouraged to be honest.

Eisenhower1You can be given the tools, but it helps to have the spirit behind your efforts.  As former presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson said: "It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse."  Self confidence is an important part of leadership.

Another wonderful quote that is key in the leadership business came from Mr. Stevenson’s rival, and the man who defeated him for the presidency of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower when he said:  "You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership."

What has happened to leadership in the United States?  It’s been interesting to observe the evolution from liberal to neoconservative.  It has been frightening to absorb the complex bi-ethical embracing of a culture that worships movie, music, and athletic stars who are totally liberal while chastising and destroying anyone with political aspirations who has ever admitted to any slip from perceived perfection.  It became quite disconcerting to me when our country began to require our leaders to be cardboard cutouts in order to qualify for office.  We are human beings, and being led by someone who is not one is only a self-created vision bordering on the delusional.

We are taught to be forgiving, to accept ones brother with his human traits, and to understand that this is a very short journey that gives us a very finite number of years to make a difference in an otherwise confused environment.  As John Quincy Adams said on leadership:  "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."Fingerfoodsbaby3

That’s all I’m looking for. . . that’s what we should expect, to dream more, to learn more and to become more. . . to reach our potential to do good, to stop pain and war and suffering when possible, to move humanity even one more inch toward some type of sanity. 

I’m not sure why I wrote this . . . must have been the whole grain Cheerios.