"Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru." -- Charlotte Joko Beck

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Risky Business

During the many weeks since my last blog, we have witnessed some spectacular examples of leadership – at both ends of the performance spectrum.
We witnessed the travesty of Congress in their inability to perform their one most vital function of passing a budget for the federal government. As a body, they proved themselves to be nothing more than a flock of elected sheep. Not a one had the courage to stand up to their “party” and push for the common good. Well, perhaps that isn’t quite a fair analogy. For the sheep, that is. A more appropriate analogy might be of a gang mentality. During the budget war on the Hill, the gang members fiercely battled each other, whether or not they believed in what the gang was doing. They were afraid for their own safety – i.e. their own political careers – so they mindlessly went along with the gang instead of standing up for what was right or working to find a solution to their differences.
And they each tried to blame the other’s rigidity on the potential consequences of shutting down government services. It’s amazing how quickly they came to an agreement on a continuing resolution – which, by the way is a cop-out since it does not address budgetary concerns at all – when the media started talking about the one thing that would get the American public in an uproar: stopping pay for our military and their families. Neither party wanted to take a chance on being blamed for that.
At the height of all of this hoopla, I found this little ditty floating around on Facebook. I do not know who the original author is, but I wish the genius would step forward and take credit:
Dear Congress, Last year I mismanaged my funds and this year I cannot decide on a budget. Until I have come to a unified decision that fits all of my needs and interests, I will have to shut down my checkbook and will no longer be able to pay my taxes. I'm sure you'll understand. Thank you very much for setting an example we can all follow. 
Meanwhile, on the better side of the leadership spectrum, was one of the most difficult decisions that the leader of a world power could make – the decision to send a military strike team into an ally’s sovereign territory to root out a dire enemy. Kudos to President Obama for having the spine needed to finally rid the world of its most evil terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. I don’t care what your party affiliation is or where you stand on Obama’s overall performance record, this was the act of a true leader.  Of course, we cannot overlook the amazing performance of our Navy SEALS who actually went in and got Bin Laden! They made me proud to be a Navy veteran – even more so than I already am.
Real leaders are willing to take risks. It is not that they are careless. On the contrary, a real leader takes great care in evaluating the pros and cons of an action. But unlike our risk-averse Congressional representation, true leaders do take action! Sometimes that action is not the popular choice. But having the fortitude, the strength of character, and the integrity to do the right thing even when no one is watching, is what counts.