Leading Our Leaders: Finding a New Way in Politics

Leading Our Leaders: Finding a New Way in Politics

As we look at the landscape of America and ponder what leader might emerge, let’s set the table of where the country stands today.

  • Sixty-seven percent of the country is dissatisfied with where we are or believes we are off on the wrong track, according to Gallup.
  • A majority of the country wants a different direction in policies and leadership than the current administration, according to a poll from CNN.
  • A majority of voters have an unfavorable view of both political parties, according to Gallup.
  • The block of independent voters in state after state continues to grow and is at record highs.
  • Authenticity is again at a premium for not only our politics but business and actions, in general.
  • After voting for it in 2000 and in 2008, voters, while disappointed it didn’t happen, continue to hunger for a leader who can bring the country together and get past the polarization and divisiveness. They are tired of the politics of division which pit one group against another.
  • Independent voters seem to believe in both religious freedom and tolerance.
  • The American public is willing to pay its fair share of taxes and wants a government to help meet their and their neighbors’ needs and dreams, but believes much of government today is wasteful, ineffective, and inefficient.
  • Independent voters appear to be socially and culturally progressive, rooted in traditional values and economically and fiscally conservative.
  • Younger voters want to engage in a higher and broader purpose with meaning, but don’t trust the current institutions to get that done.

This is a landscape that knowledgeable people in both parties understand and would agree to, especially if they had to put their own resources on the line. So why is it that no major candidate or potential candidate today seems to speak to this majority in a way that is forward-looking and new?

Many can blame the current party systems, which push candidates to the fringes on the left and the right, and create a model that is both polarized and without reform. Many say the media is the cause. Especially on cable, the media celebrates accusations, bitterness and food fights from the left and the right. It rewards the short and pithy insult or characterization. Some say that the large amount of money in politics today wreaks havoc on the ability of leaders to stay independent and to pull together all of us, whether rich, middle class or poor.

There is some truth in each of these but, in the end, the biggest factor in America not getting the leader we want and need is fear. It is fear among leaders who can’t hold their centers in the midst of pushing and shoving. It is fear among many in the media who want ratings, clicks or mentions and think the compassionate, peaceful, thoughtful center isn’t passionate enough for today’s communication environment. But in the end, it is our own fear that holds us back as a country.

In the course of my life, both personally and in politics, I have discovered most national leaders don’t really lead, they follow. And the best leaders figure out where the country is going and try and get one step in front of where we are already going. And then they encourage us on our journey and provide support on the path as we walk in the direction of our dreams together.

Our own fears in our life put roadblocks in the politics and leadership we desire. We have to ask ourselves what are we doing to encourage a different brand of actions and communication in the circles of our life, or how we acting out within our families and neighborhoods the type of leadership we want for the country. Have we conquered our own judgments and mean-spiritedness in a way that sets an example?

We fear if we let go of the old models and belief systems, which have run our individual psyches in a way that has limited us or been negative, that we will wander alone and without a home. We have to look at our own actions and begin to create authenticity and integrity in our own lives before we will get the leaders we need. And once we begin to do that, it is then our right and responsibility to demand leaders follow suit and behave in a way that mirrors our own actions.

I have not always done this well in my own life, but I am going to try. That’s because I now realize that fixing the national leadership psyche isn’t fundamentally about them, it is about me. If enough of us change our own ways, then we won’t have to look far for the leader we want. It might even be one of us.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd, founder of ListenTo.Us, is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.

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