The second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, convened on July 1, 1776 was a group of 58 men who had many differences. Their ages ranged from 26 to 70, with Benjamin Franklin being the eldest. 56 actually signed the Declaration of Independence, as the signing took place over several months. Our founders’ political differences were quite pronounced, differing on all sorts of issues. The country was a blend of agrarian and mercantile, with differing educational levels, religions, and views on the role of government.
Uniting this band of independent thinkers was the quest of freedom from the monarchal tyranny of the British Crown. They wanted individual control of their lives and ultimately the governance of this emerging country. Their passion and purpose was for the rights and good of all. Partisanship was sacrificed for the greater good.
Today, we face a crisis in leadership. The separation of powers: Executive, Judicial, and Congressional branches have become politicized. We hear more about what folks are against in Congress than what they support. Our instant news media causes many to focus on sound bytes rather than substance. We’ve had endless hearings on all sorts of things for over ten years, serving mostly for grandstanding politicians, corruption, and few results due to legal loopholes and lack of will. Solutions for the good of the country are virtually nonexistent. Gridlock is the norm. Congressional approval is near an all-time low. Resistance is the clarion call. Leadership is absent!
Our tyranny today is a government, not of or for the people, but one surviving on its own excesses for the benefit of those who are supposed to serve us. It’s about continuous re-election, pandering to lobbyists, voting for their personal lifelong pensions, and healthcare policies better for them than the voters. Sadly, this tyranny has become a self-serving bureaucracy, ignoring the will of the voters and accomplishing nothing. In corporate America, they would all be canned!
What are the leadership lessons from our founders we should apply today?
Be action-oriented and focused. Our founders put their differences aside for a single purpose of creating a free and independent country. They didn’t waste each other’s time. They took decisive action for the common good, while rising above partisanship. Leaders take focused and clear action to achieve goals benefiting the overarching purpose.
Have moral courage. In 1776, these men risked their lives for their beliefs and values. They played for keeps. Today, the risk is not appearing on a news show, being in the limelight, or heaven help us…not getting re-elected! Leaders have the integrity to do what ‘s right in the face of adversity.
Listen to diverse viewpoints with open minds. Unanimity of opinion was far from the case in 1776. Our founders had many opinions and beliefs which contradicted and conflicted with one another. By setting aside their differences in pursuit of the best possible outcome, they were able to craft solutions, while not perfect for any one individual, acceptable and workable for our new country. Leaders welcome ideas different from theirs, and are willing to give and take to achieve the most practical way forward.
Trust and respect each other. Mutual respect and trust are the glue to cohesive groups. Pettiness and juvenile behavior through personal attacks is a quick pathway to disaster. Leadership requires treating everyone with dignity and building upon a common bond of shared values and purpose through earned trust.
Communicate openly. Little is accomplished without a free flow of communication. Face to face, unfiltered discussions lead to better ideas. We have been hijacked by the extremes of our political process…the far left and the far right. News media has become the megaphone for political extremes. We can pick our poison to hear what we think we’d like to hear. Unfortunately, polarization of politics and news organizations serves none of us well. It’s hard to get the true facts. Social media is a communication channel, but not always truthful. Leaders must speak the truth, even when politically incorrect, and openly share it so the public can make its decisions from facts instead of rhetoric.
Care unselfishly about others. The nation’s founders truly cared about the folks in our young country. Their “Why” was to created a more perfect Union. Today, politicians’ single-mindedness seems to be toward power and re-election, while being subservient to big money supporters and lobbyists. We need term limits and to elect folks who sacrifice their egos and power to the support of their constituents within the framework of practicality and affordability. Leaders are servants who care about those whom they lead.
We have a great county! Unfortunately, we’ve lost our way. Recent elections prove there is a voice of the people. Celebrate our independence today. Send the message of true leadership to your elected representatives. Be a leader and voice in your community for positive change. God bless America!