Reflections on Leadership

Youth Tour, an amazing leadership experience put on each year by NRECA and the electric cooperatives across America, is coming to a close. It’s been an amazing week getting to meet and know our next generation of leaders. It’s also been a great time for me personally to reflect on what leadership means.

Each stop along this weeks journey highlighted an important leadership characteristic.

At the Newseum, sitting in front of the 9-11 display or walking by a piece of the Berlin Wall, you can’t help but realize that leaders don’t run away silently. Leaders have to act. They are usually the first ones who run toward a problem and give voice to those who have lost theirs.

A visit to Capitol Hill reminds me that being engaged and a participant are the first steps leaders must take.

U S Representative Rob Woodall, told our delegation that DC is ran by 22 year olds. That their vision is needed. But it has to be tempered with the wisdom of those who came before.

Woodall said real leaders don’t worry about getting credit for things they do. If you can build a consensus you can get work done.

We are blessed to live in a country where the system is designed to work with involvement from the citizens.

Leadership is learned. While some are born with natural traits, it’s really about stepping up, engaging, learning, and reading. It’s more about influence than position. Leadership is not a title. It is your values, morals and principles. You’ve got to have an anchor and compass to lead people.

Our people should be worried about what’s on the inside of each person today. So many approach the world with no hope and value.

Representative Austin Scott reminded us not to listen when people tell you you can’t do something. Surround yourself with a good team. Make sure you aren’t part of the standstill. People not looking for solution and only looking for something to criticize never move anyone forward.

We truly should be more worried about what’s happening inside our country than what’s happening outside the border. The biggest threat we face comes from the deterioration of morals and the lack of people willing to make a stand for what is right. You can’t move people without engaging with them.

Leaders are also full of joy because they help other folks. They want each of person to have the opportunity to have the life they dream of.

Leaders embrace failure. They don’t allow the fear of failure to keep them from trying. It’s the key ingredient to success. By learning what doesn’t work, we can move forward.

Leaders get out of the box. There’s comfort in the box When you get out of the box, you grow and see things differently. You may fail but that’s where you learn and grow. Don’t be dependent on someone else for your success.

Leaders have real, face to face conversations. Social media and our digital devices have taken away direct human interaction.

Congressman Drew Fergueson said ”don’t ever serve because you are mad.” You never make good decisions that way. Leaders have servant hearts. They are positive and uplifting. Lead because you can be a positive influence.

Leaders can disagree. Our country formed out of many disagreements. However, you need to ask questions and get to know the people around you. Learn why they feel the way they do. Life is about putting the phone down and having a conversation. Our problem is that we can’t have a civil conversation on what we do disagree about. In life, leadership is about taking ownership for who you are and what you believe and convince others to believe it.

Are you civil? How many times have you insulted someone on social media?

We need to deal with problems head on. You can’t lead from afar. If you don’t listen you won’t learn. Everything comes around. If you climb over people on your way to the top, your fall down may be brutal.

Leaders maintain personal integrity. If you lose ability for people to trust you, you will never get it back.

Feel free to share your own reflections in the comment area below.

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Groundwork laid in foundation

I’m in DC this week with over 1,800 of our nations brightest high school students as part of the NRECA Youth Tour program. This week long leadership experience provides not only a look back at the foundation of our country, but hopefully inspires a promise filled future.

I’ve been blessed to visit our Capitol several times. With each visit I always see or hear something new. This trip reminds me that no matter our area of passion, you have to be willing to make a stand for what you believe in.

A trip to the National Archives highlighted this thought. I’ve seen our nations most treasured documents which laid the groundwork for the government we have in place today. Those documents also put into place a series of protections… Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.

However, this trip I saw a set of documents I’d never seen before– the Pentagon papers. As a journalist, writer, blogger, and most importantly – speaker of my mind – these papers and those protections are a priority to me.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, The Times and The Post, printed stories from a report created in part by Daniel Ellsberg, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and analyst at the RAND Corporation and Department of Defense. Ellsberg created photocopies of the document in the Fall of 1969 after making a personal determination the public needed to hear the true story of what was happening in Vietnam.

The Pentagon Papers chronicled the U.S.’s political and military involvement in Vietnam from World War II to the document’s creation. The report, consisting of 3,000 pages of narrative and 4,000 pages of supporting documents, contained a great deal of damaging information on the U.S.’s controversial involvement in Vietnam. Among the claims were: President John F. Kennedy actively helped to assassinate and overthrow South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam had “no real impact on the enemy’s will to fight,” contradicting the U.S. government’s public pronouncements; President Lyndon B. Johnson began planning war against Vietnam in 1964, one year before the U.S.’s involvement in Vietnam became publicly known; and Johnson ordered the bombing of North Vietnam against the U.S. intelligence community’s advice.

After the government threatened the news organizations under the espionage act, on June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court ruled the constitutional right to a free press overrides other concerns. It wasn’t until 40 years after the original news report ran that the complete report was released to the public by the National Archives.

George Orewell said, ” If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

However, our founding father, George Washington, may have said it best, ”If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”