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Good leadership is a bit like baking. It's a easy to talk about but hard to do, and cutting corners will undermine the entire endeavor.
We have experienced bad leadership at every level of government for a long time. Not bad people, or bad intentions. Not bad motivations or bad ideas. Bad leadership.
To represent the people of Indiana in Congress, I am asking them to consider me to act as a leader. And for that to happen, I think it's necessary to talk about the qualities of leadership that are important to me.
In the dictionary, the word integrity is defined as the quality or state of being complete or undivided. A good person is a whole person. They are themselves 100% of the time. They do not have a nighttime face and daytime face. They do not speak out of both sides of their mouth. They are committed to a structure for life and relationships which they follow all of the time.
People who have integrity can be trusted, because they strive to be honest. As Mark Twain quipped, “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” People who have integrity are worthy of your trust.
People with integrity will not change their views to placate others. You may disagree with them, but you can respect them. Integrity is the principle of having principles. It is commitment to always do what is right.
Leadership, perhaps surprisingly, is about service. Many people see leaders as untouchable elite. But a leader is one who is not separate from others, but serving others. In the Christian tradition, we remember Jesus as the leader of His people, but also the one who washed the feet of His disciples. Leaders should serve others, and do so not with contempt but with love and understanding.
It is this compassion which separates a leader from person who is begrudgingly doing a job. A leader cares about the people they are serving. A leader is concerned with their struggles and is focused on their needs. A leader has compassion because they are serving people.
Hierarchy is a tool, like a hammer or a photocopy machine or a computer programming language. There's someone to report to, and they have someone to report to, and so on. But it's only a tool, not a description of importance. Everyone on the team is important. Everyone has a role to play.
Being a leader means you will make decisions on behalf of others, but not because you are better than them. Because none of us is better than anyone else. We are all human, finding ways to make it through the day. The structure of having “someone in charge” is only a way for humans to accomplish shared goals.
That's why leaders need to share with others, and be open to others sharing with them. Leaders must listen more than they speak. Leaders need to process information so they can relay that information to others.
And in a democracy, leadership is based solely on delegated authority. No one can make you a leader in government except for the voters. That is what it means to be humble.
It is easy to go on a diet for one day. There is not much challenge in visiting the gym once. What produces results is the habit. Leaders must be focused on doing their job, day in and day out, for as long as it takes. To be committed to those they serve all of the time.
And when a leader fails, they must dutifully apologize, make amends—and get back to work.
Integrity, compassion, humility, and dedication are all qualities not just of leaders, but of good people. We all benefit when we exhibit these toward one another.
But what makes leaders different than followers is that in the domain where they are leading—leaders have vision. They have general goals and objectives. They have specific ideas and projects. They have concerns and plans. The progress of a leader can be measured by the work they are doing and what they said they were going to do.
Leadership is about vision, because leaders see a future of possibility. And leaders invite those around them to join in this vision to change our world for the better.