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By Robert Bauer JD

Leadership, what is it really? We hear that people are touted as born leaders and others learned to be leaders, tested under fire. Leadership is a term thrown around loosely and used like confetti these days. Almost every organization has some form of leadership training. In the military, there are Non-Commissioned Officer schools of leadership, Officer Candidate School, and leadership programs at the different military academies. Police Departments offer leadership courses and manager schools. Almost everywhere you turn there is a course being offered on how to become a better leader.

Can we really identify a true leader? In fact no one really knows what kind of leader they are until they are tested. We see that every day in our world. The old saying of “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” really applies in this time of political discord.

Two significant events happened last month (September 2013) in Washington, DC that demonstrated different qualities of leadership. The events happened only a few miles apart geographically. After reading of the two examples, ask yourself, “Who would I rather follow?”

The first example happened on September 16, 2013 at approximately 8:16 AM when a shooter shot his first victim in Bldg 197 on the Navy Yard Complex. The first 911 call was made at 8:17 AM, and dispatchers alerted the lone patrol officer on duty at the time (note: there were 5 other officers standing fixed post). The lone officer on patrol for the Navy Police responded within minutes to the location where the shooter was. Shortly thereafter, another member of the Navy Police came on the scene. These two officers began to move strategically toward the shots of gunfire and danger. These men placed themselves in harm’s way in order to save the lives of those still in the building and on the facility.

In the meantime, the other officers stationed on the gate post began to secure the gates and respond to the area where the shooting was occurring. These men and women ran towards the crisis; they were going to face the challenge head on. They did not have a solution at the time to the problem, but as a team, they would find one, end the carnage and danger, and ensure that others would live to enjoy the blessing of life.
Leaders lead; they do not follow. They see a problem, and then when possible, they collaborate. They get a team of colleagues that share their passion for finding a solution, and work towards solving it. They bring in their nemesis and together they find common ground from which to build a consensus. During the tragic minutes of the September 16, 2013 did you see an armed Police officer holding a press conference, explaining why he or she could not enter the building and engage the shooter? No. You never saw or heard the Metropolitan Police officer that was seriously wounded tell the media that because someone may have screwed up giving the shooter the access to the facility in the first place, he could not go in. Members of the US Park Police never stopped and held a press conference or claimed that, because the powers that be in the Navy Department were cutting manpower, they could not go any further; after all, it was their problem not the Park Police. These leaders of men and women responded to a crisis in order to save lives and livelihoods of others; people they did not even know.

Fast forward to September 24, 2013, a U.S. Senator (possibly a Presidential hopeful for the Republican Party) stood on the Senate floor for over 21 hours babbling about Obamacare and how it was a job killer. He spoke how this party law would cost jobs and dramatically affect the economy in the worst way. On September 30, 2013 the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would fund the Federal government, but not fund the Affordable Care Act, (knowing that law was passed in both legislative bodies, signed into law and upheld by the US Supreme Court) knowing it was a shot fired across the bow of the U.S. Senate. This was sent over to the US Senate which rejected it on its arrival. This started a political tennis match of wills over funding or defunding the Affordable Care Act. As the two sides dug into their own positions (thereby reflecting a woeful lack of leadership), over 800,000 federal employees are currently without jobs or paychecks, not to mention the near 200,000 support personnel such as vendors and contractors that are without jobs.

Rather than mirror the example of the members of law enforcement at the DC Navy Yard on September 16, 2013, our political leaders have taken cover and are pointing fingers at each other, blaming the other for the problems that prevail. No one is willing to take charge to lead others to a resolution that would protect the American people and their jobs. Rather than run towards the crisis with the intent to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people, these elected officials are hiding. They are hiding on the steps on Congress with a media frenzy feeding on their every word like Paraná and spoiled meat, complaining it is the other guy’s fault, not theirs that the federal government is shut down. They are hiding at photo opportunities of World War II veterans entering a closed monument. Everyone from the Executive Branch to the Legislative Branch is failing to be leaders. They are not even following. They are talking a lot, but not saying a thing. Ask yourself; who would you follow?

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