After I retired from the US Army, I wrote a book about adaptive leadership entitled Adapt or Die: Leadership Principles from an American General. I took 35 years in the Army and 4 years at West Point and condensed those down to 9 leadership principles with a focus on Faith and Family. I am convinced that we as a Nation are struggling due to ineffective leadership who can’t adapt to changing circumstances. This is occurring at all levels, from National down to local communities. We must change that.
A critical trait for effective, adaptive senior leaders is to focus on opportunities, not obstacles. In our day-to-day lives, routinely things happen that were unforeseen. Resources that we thought were going to be made available are no longer available. The time we thought we had is truncated. Events took a different turn than we expected. Effective leaders look upon these changed circumstances as an opportunity, not as an obstacle. I was taught many years ago that you can’t roll up your sleeves while you are wringing your hands. We must capitalize on opportunities as they come our way.
We as a nation now have an opportunity as a result of the mid-term elections. America has voted. We have decided who will be our leaders at all levels. We selected US Senators and Representatives, Governors, and State Legislators. Starting January 1, 2015 we will have our elected leaders in place. The question is will they, on behalf of the American public, embrace the changes and focus on the opportunity at hand. We must demand that they do.
The key element in all this will be to focus on doing what is right for America, as opposed to doing what is right for a particular political party. As a leader, I always asked three questions: (1) Are we doing the right things? (2) Are we doing things right? (3) What are we missing? These are very important questions. If we are doing the right things the right way, let’s drive on. If not, let’s stop and make the appropriate correction. That’s what needs to happen now throughout America.
I am concerned that we as Americans have lost our identity. In the past, we proudly introduced ourselves as Americans. Now the tendency is to introduce ourselves as Republicans or Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives, etc. We must regain our identity, and our leaders must focus on what is right for America. They must put aside their petty differences and work towards compromise. They cannot spend all their time focused on how to win the next election, but rather on how to enact laws and pass legislation that is in the best interests of America. We must break out of the current stalemate, and make things happen.
In a democracy, the elected officials work for us. Let’s demand that they spend time focused on opportunities for America, and then do things to make those opportunities come to life. We must demand action. Let’s not let them spend time worrying about the obstacles in their path, commiserating about who won or lost the election or how do we make the other party look bad. Let’s not accept that. Our Nation’s future depends on leaders who will take advantage of the opportunity given to them to do what is right for America.