New ideals for a 21st century leader

“The fate of the country does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot box…but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning.” – Henry David Thoreau

I am assuming you are as concerned as I am about our country's current state of affairs. How about alarmed? How about outraged?

With the incredibly important challenges we currently face – folding financial institutions, government bailouts, energy challenges, environmental urgencies and global wars, doesn't it seem absurd that we are spending this important decision-making time discussing abortion, gay marriage, gender-race issues or any other important – but not urgent – matter?

Recently on the news crawl, the latest campaign scandal about a political candidate was followed by a report about how that candidate's brand of eyeglasses is so popular it is on back order at the manufacturer . If we are primarily concerned with the fashion of eyeglasses, where does that lead us as a country? If the news media consider this information newsworthy – what does that say about our culture?

Consider what would happen if we focused our attention on the health, security and sustainability of the economy, the environment, energy resources and global community? What if we refuse to be swayed by the distractions?

What would be possible if elections focused on the people leading the political leaders, rather than the other way around? It is our job as citizens to identify a new kind of political leader and lead them – by example – to the future we desire.

Here is what is emerging in the new political leadership paradigm.

Non-Polarizing Discourse:

Defies old conventions of “us versus them.” Not defined or restricted by party affiliation.

Has an extraordinary skill of listening and discernment. Is able to take in data from many sources, and bring people to a shared purpose and aligned action.

Surrounds himself or herself with diversity of opinion and skills. Values disagreement over “yes men” to properly vet vital decisions.

Views his or her role, political influence and responsibility in a global context.


Honors his or her word. New leaders mean what they say and say what they mean, in public and private.

Is versatile and situational. Is able to say “we must change our course,” when necessary. Understands that instant connection to global markets, political scenarios and demands on resources make it necessary to be responsive, adaptive and decisive upon receiving new information.


Views success as achieving results – not on winning or being right. The old paradigm is “let me do whatever it takes to get into office and then I will get to business.” The new paradigm is “I will use my campaign to demonstrate that I can make a difference, and go where the people lead me.”

Is self-aware and takes responsibility for the biases created by individual experience. Can discern between being reactive rather than responsive, disavows personal feelings of fear. These ideas are fundamental to the art of leadership. They are skills available to everyone. By applying these principles to our own lives, the legacy of our democratic republic will be served. When we conduct our personal and public lives with the same standards we expect from our leaders, we will contribute to the integrity of our government.

I invite you to e-mail me the qualities at the top of your list. What characteristics does the 21st Century Leader need to have? By working toward these ideas together maybe we can truly become a government of the people, by the people, for the people.