The Need for a Developmental Leader
We have cast our votes and elected our political leaders for the next four years. Now as President-elect Obama is selecting his team, we are learning more about the team of people that we hope will lead us through this economic crisis (and all those other problems) into a more sustainable, just, and united future. For Obama to fulfill the promises he made during his campaign—especially by inspiring the hope that this can be a government of the people, by the people, for the people—he will need not just to pull together a team of strong leaders able to inspire vision and get things done, he will also need to bring together leaders that have the ability to grow and develop the American populace.
For a long time, we have learned to be complacent. We have been sucked into the black hole of television and the mass media where we become passive receptors of all that is thrown at us. We’ve learned that it’s easier to pay an expert to solve a problem than to solve a problem ourselves. If there is one thing we’ve been taught time and time again, it is that our politicians can and will solve our problems for us. We have been told over and over again that it is our civic responsibility to vote and that’s where our responsibility ends.
Now we face problems we’ve seen before and problems our parents could never have imagined. We are beyond a time when a strong, charismatic leader could pull us through. There are too many problems that are far too complex for any one person to solve. The solutions to these problems won’t come from the top-down. Obama recognized that and it is clear that he pulled together a campaign that involved an incredible number of people organized more powerfully than perhaps has ever been done before. It is going to have to be from those people, and all people, coming together and growing together if real change is to occur. Regulation alone won’t address the environmental, economic, and justice problems we now face. It will require us to reinvent ourselves in a 21st century world. And not just ourselves, but our businesses, institutions, and bureaucracies. The type of leadership we need now cannot just inspire us and it cannot muscle its way through these problems. It will need to develop us to adapt to these challenges that will not be solved otherwise. The leadership that will serve us best will need to help us reinvent ourselves and support us in doing so.
That leadership will also need to recognize that we learn slowly, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t invest in our learning. Change doesn’t happen quickly. It isn’t a light switch waiting to be turned on. Real change takes time, happens slowly, and comes only through the development and growth of an entire people. In short, Obama and his team will need to develop the American people into leaders ready to adapt to the challenges we will face in the coming years. Doing that will be no easy task and also will not be a singular one; it will be an ongoing process. But first, Obama has to stoke the fires that he ignited in so many people during that campaign.