American voters had their angry moment this week. They turned the U.S. House of Representatives over to the Republican Party. It was an object lesson in the failure of leadership. This was not a partisan moment. It was a moment of supreme despair and frustration. If the blameworthy Republicans drove the car into the ditch—as President Obama said so often on the campaign trail—it became his administration’s failure to get it out of the ditch and back on the road to jobs that doomed Democrats in the mid-term elections. Nobody can argue the ditch wasn’t deep or that economic traction was illusive. Some like Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post saw voter’s behavior as irrational. In his editorial The Spoiled-brat American Electorate Robinson wrote “The American people are acting like a bunch of spoiled brats.” When it comes to the massive challenges facing our nation he writes, “They want somebody to make it all better. Now.” Patience it seems is not on the national menu. Frustration, well that’s another matter.
Whenever either political party has held the full majority in both houses of Congress, they have more often than not failed to hear the electorate, ridden rough-shod over their opponents, filibustered one another’s efforts and in the end violated the inherent privileges of leadership. Simply put, every leader gets paid for results. Period. When individuals believe their sole purpose is to obstruct the other side’s plans, they forfeit their right to lead, violating the most basic tenets of trust, teamwork and responsibility of calling people to service along the way.
That’s also what makes it such a critical cautionary tale. If so many capable and talented politicians can blindly stumble into this leadership maelstrom, how can we possibly avoid it? Sure it’s a punchline to an easy joke, but it’s also a daunting question all leaders need to consider. History is replete with leaders who have gotten it so very wrong and thankfully a few so very right. Perspective in these matters is easily worth a 100 IQ points.