What would the perfect President be like? What would the perfect Senator or Congressman be like? Of course, we do not have perfect people to choose from for these positions, but if we set the standard of what we’re looking for, and then start looking for the right people to fill the positions, we would likely end up with much better leaders than we have now.
This is how Ronald Reagan was found. Conservative movements began looking for what they needed in a candidate rather than just looking at the available pool, who at the time, were clamoring to be chosen. Reagan was not a perfect President, but he seemed to be the perfect one for the times. Under his leadership, the nation not only emerged from its worst economic problems in half a century, but vision and hope for an even greater future were restored. It was this faith that ultimately unraveled the power of our greatest enemy—the Soviet Union. Nearly two decades of prosperity followed until the recipe for this was forgotten.
We can have the best form of government but will still have bad government if we put bad people in it. We have the best form of government, but we are not putting the best people in it, and we have an increasingly shallow pool of people to choose from. A reason for this is because the system that has evolved for choosing our leaders and representatives favors the wrong kind of people—the lower forms of self-promoting politicians. It penalizes the right kind of leaders, those who are of the character that produces the kind of servant-citizen-leaders for which our government was designed.
There is a difference between a politician and a leader, and we are in desperate need of not just a leader, but a great leader. It is not the government that needs changing as much as the election process. America is now facing some of the most potentially deadly crises we have ever faced, in a time when the world is more dangerous than it has ever been. It is understandable that so many would be pining for another Reagan, but for what we are facing, we need a combination of Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, and Moses.
At one of our Oak Initiative Summits, Dr. Alan Keyes shared a brilliant insight about the flawed system we now use to choose our leaders. He pointed out how the great leaders promoted in Scripture and by our Founding Fathers were not the ones begging to be chosen, but were actually reticent to even pursue office. King David was busy doing his job tending sheep when Samuel came and anointed him. Elisha was busy plowing his fields when Elijah came and threw the mantle on him. George Washington did not even know he had been nominated for President, and did nothing to pursue it, but was elected by a people who recognized great leadership.
The process we have today attracts the very kind of people both Scripture and the Founding Fathers warned us about. This system favors the self-promoting and those who can best beat down their competition. Conventional wisdom says this process helps vet our future leaders and prepares them for the intensity of the office. This may be true to a degree, but this reasoning is basically and obviously flawed. If it were true, then how did we elect someone to the most powerful office in the world who has never led anything in his life before and likely could not have received even a security clearance?
This kind of “conventional wisdom” has gotten us into the mess we’re in, and it will not get us out of it. We need a new breed of leadership, and it will take a new kind of vision to recognize them. Our present system is not working. Again, it is not the fault of our government, but the process that has evolved for choosing the people we put in it. We may think that it is too far evolved to change now, but that is not true. We must change it or we will lose our form of government, and our Republic will fail.
If the politicians and pundits who laud the present process are right, why did we feel so slimed when this process passed through our state? We were not left with vision, hope for the future, or excitement about the coming elections and possibility of making a difference. We just wanted them to leave and take all of their negative commercials with them. If this is such a good thing, then why did Obama’s approval rating go up 9 percent since it started, and why does he now look like the only adult in the group?
As a longtime, faithful Republican, I have never been more ashamed of my party than I have watching the nominating process this year. Certainly there were some highlights and some good things; however, not only the Republican Party but the nation as well will be in great trouble if we cannot do better than we’ve been doing in picking our leaders.
Americans are now possibly as divided as they have been since the Civil War, but there is one thing that unites virtually every American—the sense that our government is broken. It has fallen to a level of incompetence and dysfunction that could not survive in any other field and it will not likely survive much longer as our government if basic changes are not made in the way we choose those we put in it.
The following are some of the basic qualities that the greatest leaders have had, and that we must resolve to seek in those we support for any office in the land if we are going to continue to be a great nation:
1) CHARACTER: The greatest leaders are the greatest followers of a noble cause. They do not lead because they want the honor or benefits of leadership, but out of a depth of conviction and devotion to something much greater than themselves. The great combine their conviction with a devotion to truth and the transparency that proves this devotion.
2) KNOWLEDGE: The deeper and more expansive the knowledge, the more capable a leader will be to discern the important issues of the times and be able to effectively address them.
3) WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING: This is the ability to apply knowledge correctly. Not everyone who has great knowledge can apply that knowledge wisely, so we must not be impressed by knowledge alone.
4) COURAGE: This is the ability to pursue actions and solutions because they are the right, not just because they are politically expedient. This requires a deep and strong moral compass.
Courage is actually one of the most politically expedient things we can have because people in every age have proven willing to follow courage.
5) VISION: If we are leading others, we must know where we are going. Our vision must be defined and clear enough for those who would follow us so they will know why they’re following us.
There is one direction that will get us out of any crisis or situation—FORWARD. Do we have a positive vision of the future, or are we basing our leadership on the negative of just not doing what others have done?
6) FOCUS: As President Truman once said, “Many people are defeated by secondary successes.” Good can be the worst enemy of best. Just as great ballplayers keep their eye on the ball, great leaders keep their focus on the ultimate goal.
Just as great athletes don’t celebrate too much over one advance or score but wait until the game is won, great leaders don’t celebrate too much over smaller victories, but keep their focus on the ultimate victory. As General MacArthur once said, “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” We need to define the ultimate victory and not settle for anything less.
7) RESOLVE and ENDURANCE: Anything that happens too fast or too easily is usually insignificant. Great leaders must have the resolve and endurance to stay in the fight until the victory is complete. This has proven to be a very rare quality in leaders. It is much more exciting to start a war than to slog it out to the end.
8) THE ABILITY TO PLAN: The ability to create workable plans is the foundation of accomplishment. Any job is doable if broken down into small enough steps. Knowing where you want to go or what you want to accomplish is the easy part—developing a plan that will get you there is another matter, and few have proven able to do both.
9) THE ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE: The greatest leaders know where they are going, do the necessary planning, and they are able to convey it to others in a way that inspires them to follow.
In a republic, the people are the sovereign, and they have the right to know what we are doing and why. So do all of those who will be required to carry out the plans. However, this too requires great wisdom. If we get so tedious in conveying the details of the plan, we will bore instead of inspire, and even worse, can get bogged down in “the paralysis of analysis.”
10) THE ABILITY TO MOBILIZE: You are not a leader if someone is not following. The most effective leaders will not just mobilize the greatest number of people, but the right people. Getting the right people in the right places is critical to success.
11) THE ABILITY TO BUILD AND LEAD A TEAM: This is one of the most important abilities for the office of the President. Many have knowledge and vision that can inspire and mobilize, but fail at this, and thereby fail in their administration.
The more immature or insecure we are as leaders, the more we will want all of the credit for success and none of the blame for failure. The greatest leaders give credit where it is due, especially to subordinates, and they take the blame for failures whenever they can, even when the failure was by subordinates. The buck really does stop with the leader. Few can do this, which is why there are so few great leaders in history.
12) HUMILITY: This is required if we are to have one of the most valuable assets of a leader—the ability to learn from mistakes and thereby not keep repeating them.
The Southern General Robert E. Lee’s death was mourned more in the North than even any Union general, including the one who defeated him, General Grant. The reason Lee was so beloved by the entire nation, even those who had lost fathers, sons, and brothers while fighting him, was universally acknowledged to be his humility. He not only readily accepted responsibility for his failures, but also the failures of his subordinates. Lee was the opposite of a blame-shifter, and so it was rightly said of him that there has never been a more noble leader of a less noble cause.
It may be unique in history that a leader of such a tragic cause would become so endeared even by his former enemies. We need to ask why today we can fight for noble causes and yet are hated even more for it. There is a reason for it. False humility has caused some to apologize for America for things we did not do wrong, which only caused more disrespect by both friends and enemies. Even so, true humility will always acknowledge what we do wrong, not out of political expediency, but because it is the right thing to do. This is one factor that seems to universally cause respect and trust.
13) ACCOUNTABILITY: Benjamin Franklin said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Again, few things build trust faster than one who accepts and acknowledges their failures. Few things cause the erosion of trust faster than a blame-shifter. People instinctively know this, which is why Obama’s approval rating plummeted the more he tried to blame Bush for the nation’s problems. The people knew Obama had inherited major problems, but they hired him to fix them, not find those who needed to be blamed. Great leaders do not waste their energy or the people’s good will by blaming others for problems, but rather focus on finding solutions.
14) GREAT LEADERS BUILD A VICTORY MENTALITY WITH HUMILITY AND GRACE: Great and lasting accomplishments are built by a mentality that has high purposes, and will not settle for less than accomplishing them, while imparting this to those who follow them. To them, there are no options but success. This is the faith that builds greatness that lasts.
It is right to celebrate victories, but there is a difference in celebrating with the belittling tone toward the vanquished, or of arrogance, and a celebration that acknowledges and expresses appreciation for all who paid the price to fight the good fight.
Is there such a leader on the planet today? There are many, and there could even be many in your own neighborhood. They are not likely to be in politics because that has become so foreign to the nature of great leadership. Even so, I’ve been studying great and effective leaders for more than forty years, and I see the potential in some almost everywhere I go. We may have a vacuum of leadership in the nation now, in virtually every field, but it seems that the potential in the farm teams is remarkable. For this reason, in spite of the great crises we’re now facing, God has a future for our country and a great one.
We must learn the lesson given to us by the greatest and most effective leader there has ever been—Jesus. Never has so much been accomplished by so few as Jesus and His apostles did. Where did He find such remarkable leaders to do what they did? He found them among the common people, living ordinary lives, and some of them very questionable lives. He called them and then He changed them into the most effective force for good the world has ever known. They then went out and changed the world more than any conqueror, philosopher, religious, or political leader ever did.
Since Jesus walked the earth, those who have embraced even a small portion of His leadership principles have had a major impact in their times, and occasionally for all time. Even if you do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, there is more to be learned by the leadership principles He used than anyone who has ever lived. There simply was never a more effective leader and never anyone who made others into leaders like He did. The main point He may have been trying to convey by those He chose is that great leadership can be found in any one of us.
The great lesson of Barack Obama is that anyone can become President. I am still thankful to have lived in a country that would elect as our leader someone from a still oppressed minority the way we did with Obama. I was remorseful that I could not vote for our first black President, and I’m deeply grieved by what he’s done in the job, but I’m thankful for such a country. I pray that I will be able to vote for our first Hispanic President, our first woman President, or one from any other minority.
Even though at this time I personally think Obama has been the worst President in my lifetime, and maybe ever, I believe Jesus is not only still alive, but still doing all that He did when He walked the earth; therefore I have not given up hope that He would move in Obama’s life and yet make him into a great President. For as long as he is in office, this will be my prayer. However, until that change happens to him, I will be looking for another leader.
We have been a nation blessed by God, possibly more than any nation ever. When we basically started asking God to leave, our slide began, and it continues. If we look back to Him, we can rise again to even greater heights, but it will not happen if we do not turn back to Him. According to the first five chapters of Isaiah, one of the first evidences of a nation that departs from the Lord is immature, capricious leadership under which the people faint. One of the first blessings of a nation that honors the Lord is righteous leadership under which the people prosper. We must return to the One who is above all authority, power, and dominion—the King who is above all kings and who knows how to raise up great leaders.
Tim Tebow is a loud and clear message to our country. He is bold and uncompromising in his faith, but not a hypocrite, and the nation loved him for it. The nation is ready to love and honor sincere Christians again, but there is much more to this message.
When the NFL would not let him write John 3:16 on his eye black, the Lord broadcast it in a way that no mere human could have pulled off. Not only did Tebow throw for 316 yards in their playoff win against Pittsburg, but he averaged 31.6 yards a pass, and the rating for the last part of the game was even 31.6. Because of this, over the next few days more than 110 million people searched the Internet to find out what John 3:16 said.
Think about that. No Christian would need to Google John 3:16 to see what it says, so these were not likely believers. This may have been the single greatest witness in history, and there will be a harvest from all of those seeds that were planted.
This is also a message that it is time to be bold and uncompromising in our faith. This does not mean we should be obnoxious, as Tebow is a testimony that he is anything but that. He is a genuinely humble guy who loves God and cannot stop talking about the One he loves. Let us do this out of love and not religious compulsion. Let us also not give up on our country. We cannot be a great nation if we are not led by great leaders. So let’s “Tebow,” get on our knees and pray, and resolve to never, ever compromise our convictions.