The election season is over. For some voters, going to the polls was merely a civic duty. For others voting was a matter of stewardship, understanding that God gives us this American privilege, and we will be held accountable for every vote we cast.
But my real focus of this article is not on voters, but rather it’s a message to the newly elected (or re-elected) officials.
God has given me the opportunity (and sobering responsibility) to meet and get to know dozens of politicians, from councilmen to several Presidential candidates. While I’m no longer active in political endeavors, many of these friends or acquaintances were elected to office this last cycle. These offices range from school board members to US Senators, and many offices in between.
So with this as a backdrop, the following verse jumped out at me this week from the book of Daniel:
“For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” Daniel 4:17
The Instruction Manual
The book of Daniel is the instruction manual on how Christians in government should behave. Daniel also illustrates to believers how we should respond to government, particularly adversarial ones.
As we read this manual, for guidance both in civics and governance, it’s important to understand that the government officials we are introduced to in Daniel are both followers of (the one true) God, as well as pagans (followers of someone or something other than the one true God). In addition to Daniel, there are many other books and passages in the Bible that offer insights into God’s view of government officials, and their role in serving Him.
God Elevates Both Believers and Unbelievers to Government
This is the first principle that each recently elected government official should understand. Regardless of whether you believe in and follow God, or not, it is God that has given you the victory you are celebrating. It’s not the voters. It’s Him. Sure, the voters all cast a vote, some for you and some against you.
But ascribing your victory to voters is akin to thanking a courier who hands you the keys to your new car, that your rich uncle just bought for you. Your uncle deserves the acknowledgement and thanks, not the courier.
God “gives them (kingdoms) to anyone he chooses — even to the lowliest of people” affirms this principle. So whether you were elected the county dog catcher, or the President of the United States, God has lent you the office to test your stewardship. That’s not only an awesome opportunity, but it’s more importantly a sobering responsibility. You will be held accountable, not merely by the voters, but more importantly by God Almighty.
God is Testing Your Humility (or Pride)
In Daniel, we read about the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and a powerful ruler of his day. But with that power, we also see a man who grew very proud. We read in Daniel 4:30 these words:
“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’” (Daniel 4:30)
If ever there was a man who embodied the spirit of the “self-made” man, King Nebuchadnezzar was that man. Note how his power led to pride. (And we’ll find out in our next principle, what the king’s pride led to.)
It’s a very difficult task to resist the temptation of pride. Power and pride seem to go hand and hand. So as someone is elevated to a position of power, who was a “no one” or perhaps a “lesser one” before his election, it’s so easy to become prideful in that new found position. A politician can easily look at himself as important. As special. As above others. As privileged. As deserving.
But all those attitudes are not only false, they are Pride whispering lies to us. It’s incumbent on you as an elected official to resist such temptations, and rebuke those attitudes. But if you fail this test, you will soon experience the warning from Proverbs 16:18 where we’re told:
“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”
How many politicians do you know that seem to struggle with pride? If we’re all honest though, this is a sin many of us have succumbed to in our own lives. So Mr/Ms Politician, resist this huge temptation that comes to all of us, but particularly those with power. If you don’t, you may find yourself experiencing the next principle.
Pride Leads to Bad Stuff
I suppose I could have been more “sophisticated” in describing this principle, but “bad stuff” really is the result of Pride in the life of an elected official. The prophet Daniel, who was also a high government official in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, warned the King of what would occur if he took credit for “his” achievements versus ascribing any success to God. Note Daniel’s warning:
“You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses… King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.” (Daniel 4:25, 27)
Sadly though, this is what occurred when Nebuchadnezzar refused to heed God’s warning, spoken through Daniel:
“…A voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’” (Daniel 4:31-32)
What a great fall King Nebuchadnezzar experienced! From the height of world power, to the lowliness of an animal — simply because he allowed the spirit of pride to rule in his life.
It’s uncanny, but should not be surprising, that 600 years later, Jesus, the Son of the Voice from heaven who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, reminded us again of the repercussions of pride in our lives:
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
So be sure of this elected official. Pride will tempt you, but you can resist it in your live, and as you do, and take the less travelled path of humility, God will exalt you, according to Jesus, God’s Son.
Nebuchadnezzar’s own life is a reflection of this reality for when the king finally humbled himself and acknowledged the One who had exalted him to begin with, this is what the king had to say:
“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:34, 36-37)
We’ve all heard of the “servant leadership” principle. It’s a teaching that’s hip these days, and often promoted in corporate entities. But long before motivational coaches latched onto this truth, Jesus had this to say about the role servant leadership should play in all of our lives, including elected officials:
“But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27)
Having been around elected officials for many, many years now, I have seen a spirit that is often anything but “servant leadership.” The head tables, the honored seats, and the best of everything is always reserved for politicians. And yet, the elite status most politicians enjoy is entirely at odds with their self-assigned title of “servants of the people.”
So if you were just elected and want to be different and break the political mold, what if you were to truly embrace the idea of “servant leadership” in your elected role? Perhaps one antidote against the pride that will lead to destruction and fall, is to simply commit oneself to truly being a servant in practice versus simply in words.
There are at least two reasons to do so. The first is because Jesus modeled such leadership and what better person to pattern our lives after than the Son of God? But there is another reason, and it has to do with future rewards:
“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
God’s Elevating of An Individual Does NOT Suggest He Endorses That Individual
We often misunderstand God’s actions and choices, assuming that because He places certain individuals in positions of authority, that God must then endorse such an individual. This fallacy has been a huge stumbling block for Christians, particularly over the last couple years. But this could not be further from the truth, as taught throughout Scripture.
God elevates individuals to positions of authority for several reasons including 1) to achieve God’s greater Plan, 2) to test that individual, 3) to punish, test, or refine those who are under the ruler’s authority, or some other purposes. We cannot always be certain of God’s reasons, but we can know this:
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
We also know that at times God will even elevate evil or immoral rulers to achieve His greater Plan. But when that Plan is achieved, God will discard the ruler, when he does not turn to God and acknowledge His sovereignty. The examples of the numerous kings of Judah and Israel in the Old Testament are an affirmation of this principle, as God used both good and evil kings to continue to advance His objectives. But as soon as God finished with an immoral ruler, God always discarded him.
So the lesson any elected official should learn from this truth, is that God’s selection of you for the office you now hold, is not necessarily an endorsement of you, your political solutions, ambitions, or even your character. Rather, He has placed you there for His purposes. So it’s incumbent on every elected official to ask these questions:
“Why did God elevate me? What does He want to achieve through me? How can I best serve God in this capacity? Am I ready to give account to Him for my actions in my current position?”
All these questions require one particular attitude which we referenced earlier: Humility.
In closing, I trust as you assume the new office or term, which you have been given for a brief moment, that you will ponder these truths from God’s Word. I trust you will acknowledge Whom it is that elevated you, that you will remain humble, that you will truly model servant leadership, and that you will never assume that God endorses all you do, simply because He has granted you this position of authority.
Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when He, as the Son of God, stood before the government official who had been lent the power of life or death:
“Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
So if your authority is given to you by God Himself, then this should be your response:
“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Blessings to you as you move into what has often been portrayed as “The Swamp.” But in reality, it may be your greatest opportunity and responsibility to:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
(If you know an elected official, and agree with this message, would you forward this to him/her?)
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams
One would have to be asleep at the wheel these days to not recognize the all out assault on some of the most basic truths of life. One truth under such attack is that the two distinct sexes, male and female, are determined solely at conception. Whether you arrive at this conclusion biologically, theologically, or both, this truth has been known and understood from the beginning of time. But if you’re ever unsure, you need only undress in front of a mirror for self-validation. The evidence is indisputable.
Transgenderism falsely challenges this truth.
Today we have reached a new era, or more accurately, we have fallen to a new low. This low is one that rejects facts, both scientific and observable, preferring to embrace feelings, even when they contradict undeniable truths. The transgender lie affirms that a “her” today may become a “him” tomorrow, or vice versa, simply by feeling such. So a Bruce from birth can wake up one morning and assert he is now a she, change his name to Caitlyn, and begin a new life based on a lie. And the cultural-elite affirm the lie, deny the truth, and disparage the truth-affirming “bigots.”
When we were growing up and we feared a boogie man under our bed, our parents would teach us to confront our fear because it was untrue. There was no boogie man. It was merely a false feeling. So obviously, a parent would reveal the fear for what it was — a lie and encourage the child to embrace the truth and reject the lie. Doing anything else as a parent would not only be irresponsible, it would be hurtful to the child, and reveal the negligence of the parent.
Today though, we have men and women and even boys and girls who fear or reject what they were created to be from the moment of conception, either male or female. But rejecting that truth, and feeling something other than the truth, does not change reality. But what is most tragic isn’t the person who is struggling with whether to reject facts and embrace feelings. The most tragic reality, that is even dangerous, is a society, culture, and politicians who wrongly affirm a person’s feelings, when those feelings are diametrically opposed to facts.
Rather than affirming a lie, we should expose the lie. And lovingly help that person whose mental processes have been short circuited from reality.
The Political Battle
On the political front though, our nation is facing a crossroads moment. Will we cower as a tyrant continues to assert his fundamental transformation of our nation, or will we reject his latest edicts and refuse to comply with the lies he perpetrates as he leads our nation further and further into the abyss of moral confusion and depravity?
The unconstitutional edict President Obama announced, via his Department of Education and Department of Justice, is that all public schools, “as a condition of receiving Federal funds” must now make decisions about their students based on their “gender identity” versus their biological sex. So a male who now “feels” he is a female, will be entitled to enter and use the female restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and housing and overnight accommodations. No longer will objective truth as affirmed on one’s birth certificate prevail. Rather, subjective feelings that deny the truth will rule the day. And while our nation will have furthered a lie of a very small minority of mentally troubled individuals, it will trample on the safety, privacy and dignity of millions of young students.
As mentioned, our nation is at a crossroad moment resulting from Obama’s dictator-type edict. The crossroad we face is what will our response be to Obama’s latest “fundamental transformation?” Will we stand up to our own 2016 version of “King George” and declare our independence from the tyranny of lies, thuggery and intimidation?
This is one moment when “We the People” must rise up and beat back the tyranny of men. But it will require our state Governors and legislators to assert a backbone that all too frequent is missing.
We have seen a number of governors step up and announce they will categorically reject Obama’s edict. But there are others, like my own Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, who have issued weak, timid statements, as they have done on nearly every other constitutional assault by Obama. If there is ever an issue where people across the entire political spectrum are in agreement, it is this. No responsible Mom or Dad would accept the notion that their 13 year old daughter could be changing clothes or showering next to a boy who simply asserts he “feels” like he is a girl. Rather, they are concerned about the safety, dignity, privacy, and decency of their child. And while our nation has fallen a long way, I still believe those values are important to 99% of parents across this land.
So will our elected officials step forward and challenge Washington’s tyrant with their own line in the sand? Feckless politicians will not. And we have too many of them. But principled leaders will, regardless of the threats from a tyrant, the screams of the political activists, or the maligning of a leftist media. Because principle will stand in the face of the storm, understanding that if our Republic is to stand, human passions must be bridled by “morality and religion” and absent that, our constitution is “wholly inadequate” to govern such a people.
In 1976 the film Network featured a scene in which a fictional TV anchor, in response to the overall decline in America due to inflation, unemployment, crime and a recession, encouraged his viewers to stand up, go to their windows, stick their heads out and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” While the movie was a fictional story, the plot highlighted the mood of a large number of Americans at the time. The relevant scene can be viewed here in case you’ve never seen it. (warning: some strong language)
Similar to the movie Network, if there’s one word that describes many voters 30 years later, it is anger. From the outset of this latest Presidential cycle, we’ve seen poll after poll affirm that voters are absolutely disgusted with politicians in Washington, and the sentiment isn’t limited to one party.
On the Democratic side, we have seen Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, garner 41% of the vote to date, as democrat voters dismiss the heir apparent, Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, on the Republican side we’ve witnessed voters reject candidates who have any ties to the elite establishment, opting to support Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. In fact, these two candidates have garnered two thirds of the votes cast to date in Republican primaries and caucuses.
It’s understandable that voters have grown angry and frustrated with politicians, particularly on the Republican side. When candidates at all levels campaign on principles that support limited government, promote fiscal responsibility, and champion life and family, voters expect them to govern according to those values, which are affirmed in the Republican platform. Yet, it has become the norm for politicians, once elected, to quickly turn their backs on their campaign promises. Shamefully, these men and women chose the party elite, special interests and big business over the will of the voters who elected them.
While anger is an understandable reaction to these self-serving men and women, is anger in and of itself a reliable response to such betrayal by politicians? Should we trust anger to guide us in our selection of the individual who would lead our nation, and even the free world, in some of the most crucial matters of our time?
Responding in anger leads to many unintended consequences, and as the verses above indicate, it places us in the company of fools, or at least leads to foolish behavior. Throwing a hammer after accidentally hitting your thumb might be a natural response, but it will likely damage a nearby wall. Likewise, choosing a presidential candidate who claims he’ll build a wall, just because we’re angry, without scrutinizing the substance of that candidate, borders on the same foolish behavior. Worse though, the repercussions of such an uninformed decision could prove catastrophic for our nation.
There are a host of decisions of much lesser consequence that we spend hours and even days, at times, deliberating over. When I recently purchased a television, I spent time on the internet researching which brand and features were the best and then made two trips to Best Buy before selecting the TV. And you no doubt have done the same when you purchased your last car, home or perhaps even a toaster. Yet it’s amazing, if not sad, that many in this election cycle are simply selecting a candidate that pushes all the right buttons and says all the right things, because they’re “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”
The challenge for all of us who are angry over what is taking place in Washington is to use our logic rather than anger to make choices. Logic can guide while anger seeks to mislead. Reason will prevail while rage simply destroys. But will Americans discipline themselves to resist their inner urge to simply “burn it down and start over” as the mantra of some is these days? Will anger reign or reason prevail? The answer to this question may determine what kind of nation we have a year or two from now.
As I’ve begun to share with folks that if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee I will NOT vote for him, the standard response I hear is: “if you don’t vote for Trump you are voting for Hillary!” The intent with such a statement is to either 1) shame or coerce me into voting for Trump or 2) demand that I fall in line with the party nominee.
I find it ironic though that as Republicans have grown increasingly upset over their party and its unwillingness to live by its own principles, many are now embracing a man whose track record is the antithesis of the foundational values of the Republican party.
Contrary to the shallow argument that “a vote for anyone but Trump is a vote for Hillary,” one should consider this truth: A vote for Trump is actually a vote for Hillary. You might find your head swimming after that last statement so hang on and let me explain.
I contend that a person’s track record will always reveal the truth of who that person is and it will predict how that individual will act in the future. In the case of a politician, his words should be carefully examined and compared, with great skepticism, against his actual record. So when it comes to Donald Trump, let’s see if my theory holds any truth: that a vote for the Donald is in fact a vote for Hillary. Below are more than 30 examples where both Trump and Hillary are identical in their views on a number of key issues:
Of course there are areas in which their records diverge but when one considers the myriad of consistencies in the positions of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the only conclusion I can come to is that Trump is no conservative. But even worse, the man is a faux Republican. If ever there was a RINO (Republican In Name Only), Trump is such a candidate, but on steroids. Truthfully, Trump is simply a liberal democrat who has deceptively embraced the Republican label, with nothing to justify his conversion.
Over the years I’ve heard the following statement made about those professing to be Christians: “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you as one?” Perhaps though we should modify that statement slightly and apply it to Mr. Trump as follows: “If Donald Trump were put on trial for being a Republican, would there be enough evidence to convict him as one? Or would the evidence suggest he is something else, say a liberal progressive Democrat?” Follow the evidence and you’ll have the answer.
There’s a verse of Scripture that states, “By their fruits you will know them.” In the case of Donald Trump, his fruit of over 50 years is well known and if we are willing to objectively examine it, there can be no question as to his liberal bona fides. But will Americans care? We shall know soon enough… but it may be too late.
I find it very curious that so many folks have enthusiastically thrown their support behind Donald Trump in 2016. But I’m particularly amazed at evangelicals who have fallen head over heels for Trump, both those in the pews, as well as noted evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Jr., Robert Jeffress and more. As I’ve listened to these men trumpet their praise for Donald, much of their rationale is based on the billionaire’s perceived business acumen and his supposed fiscal credentials.
In his statement endorsing Donald Trump, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr, called Trump, “a successful executive and entrepreneur.” And Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of 11,000 member First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX, stated on FoxNews that evangelical pragmatists say, “Let’s find the most conservative person we can. Let him concentrate on fixing the economy… pragmatists are basically going towards Donald Trump.”
The sentiments by Falwell, Jeffers and millions of other “pragmatic” evangelicals prioritizing the economy and fiscal matters is quite puzzling and got me wondering whether other values of an individual should be ignored? Do a candidate’s positions on other issues matter? What about his personal behavior and life — is that fair game? Or should we simply remain focused on fiscal issues, as if strengthening the almighty dollar should be our nation’s singular priority?
Let’s consider another businessman who, by any measure of economic standards, has achieved extraordinary business success. In 1953, a 27-year-old entrepreneur, struggling to find his place in the world, invested $600 of his limited capital to launch a monthly periodical. The first issue was an instant success, selling out all 53,991 copies at 50 cents per copy. Over the next several years, the magazine’s circulation grew to over 1 million by 1960, and it continued on a rapid upward trend, peaking at over 5 million copies monthly in 1975.
Boosted by his rapid success, the young entrepreneur ventured into a number of related business ventures, including casinos and night clubs. With his growing success, the periodical he founded attracted mainstream authors and secured interviews with noted personalities, including presidential candidate Jimmy Carter and even Donald Trump.
Despite falling on hard times in the 80’s, the following decade the business regrouped under the leadership of his daughter. As a result, the enterprise that began as a men’s magazine nearly 40 years earlier successfully launched a TV channel and soon after that a membership only website. Fast forward to 2015 and the founder of that first fledgling periodical in 1953 now boasts a multi-billion dollar global operation. And this entrepreneur’s own personal net worth is estimated at $50 million… which all started with a $600 investment.
Obviously, from the title of my article you can already surmise our mystery entrepreneur is none other than Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, one of the most economically successful men’s magazines of all time. Yet, by any measure of wholesome and upright values, Hugh Hefner is someone who has preyed on women and capitalized on the sexually degenerate appetites of men. Hefner is a man whose values have served to hasten our nation’s slide into the abyss of moral degradation and depravity. The door Hefner’s Playboy dared to crack open has ultimately served to proliferate an industry that has become so mainstream that many simply shrug their shoulders as it leads millions of young men down a dead end trail of remorse and regret.
Like Hugh Hefner, Donald Trump has achieved extraordinary business success and it’s this success that he touts when he claims, “I’m running for office in a country that’s essentially bankrupt, and it needs a successful businessman.” There is no doubt that America’s fiscal condition is dire with up to 40% of all federal expenditures being funded through increasing our national debt as it bursts through the $20 trillion mark. But driving this fiscal threat is our bankruptcy as a nation relative to our adherence to the Constitution and the principles of our founding fathers, including those Judeo-Christian values upon which America was founded.
Given these truths, we are faced with a chicken and egg type dilemma. Do economics drive a person’s values or do a person’s values drive their economics?
I believe all that we do flows from our core values so while evangelical leaders like Falwell and Jeffress appear to base their endorsement of Trump on his fiscal prowess, I believe one cannot and should not ignore the values behind Trump’s financial successes. So, let’s look very briefly at just a few of Trump’s “values” that would be at odds with the values many evangelicals and conservatives claim as their own:
Trump boasts in his book “The Art of the Comeback” about his numerous extra-marital exploits: “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.“
Trump said in 1999 “I am very pro-choice” and he would not ban partial birth abortion. He claims to have changed his views in recent years.
Trump said he is open to the idea of continuing federal funding of Planned Parenthood for their “good aspects… and the things they do properly and good” but he would not fund the abortion part of their business.
Trump supports a universal healthcare system similar to Canada’s government-run system and the government would foot the bill for those who could not pay.
These are just a few highlights of Trump’s views that clearly conflict with conservative values. To find out more about the issues Trump supports, that should concern conservatives, go to Conservative Review here and here. Additionally, for evangelical conservatives, these articles by CNN and The Daily Beast provide additional areas of concern.
At the end of the day, I believe that one’s core values will ultimately influence every other decision a person makes. And while our nation certainly requires some drastic fiscal reforms, there are still matters that should trump the dollar, even when it comes to Donald Trump. And finally, we should all remember the words of Jesus when He said, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” At this crucial time in our nation’s history, are we more concerned in gaining the world or losing our souls?
How many times have you heard someone say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you talk?” While I don’t know if that’s the reason God made us that way, I do believe in the message that is conveyed.
It seems that many in leadership are frequently more interested in speaking first and listening second, if at all. Perhaps a leader seeks to impress or dominate the conversation. Or perhaps he simply feels he has all the answers. But if there’s one thing that will diminish the respect of others, it is a leader’s lack of interest in what others think or have to say. It may not be intentional on his part, but if a leader cares about those he is entrusted with, it’s incumbent on him to listen more than he speaks.
I think back to the late ’90’s when my business partner and I were opening up one of our more than two dozen senior care facilities. We had the distinct privilege of escorting a noted federal elected official through our property. We obviously felt honored to have him as our guest. But as I recall the encounter, it was clear that the politician had very little interest in our views or concerns. He was more interested in monopolizing the conversation. Since that day, I have had the opportunity to engage with the same individual on a number of other instances and his qualities have never changed. The conversation is always one-sided.
On the flip side, I had a recent encounter in 2015 with one of the Presidential candidates for the Republican nomination and his wife. Following a visit by Senator Ted Cruz, and his wife Heidi, to Chattanooga, I had the unexpected honor of traveling with the two of them on their campaign bus from Chattanooga to Murfreesboro where they were holding another event. I’ve been around three other Presidential candidates in one-on-one scenarios in the past and I had seen the “talk first” mentality exhibited by a couple of them so I fully expected the same from Ted Cruz.
From the beginning of the trip though, I was pleasantly surprised when Heidi Cruz first sat down across from me and some other friends who were also traveling on the bus. Heidi engaged in an interactive, two-way conversation. While she wasn’t the candidate or individual seeking to lead, it was clear that she possessed strong leadership qualities. There was no sense of her desiring to monopolize the conversation but rather she exhibited genuine interest in me, my background and my views.
After 20 minutes or so, Ted came forward from the back of the bus, where he had been engaged in an interview with an NBC reporter. When he joined us, there was no air of “I’ve arrived so it’s time for everyone else to listen up.” Truthfully, Ted was less about him and more about us. He took real interest in what was on our minds and what our concerns were. While we grilled him with questions, his answers were not long or verbose, as I’ve frequently seen from other leaders and politicians. Ted continued to bring the conversation back to us.
In thinking about the leadership qualities and styles of these two elected leaders, I believe there are some distinct lessons that can be learned by those seeking to be good leaders themselves.
Leaders Ask Questions
A leader will ask questions of those he seeks to lead. Questions are the means of finding out what is in the hearts and minds of people. Without asking questions, you’ll never know what concerns others are grappling with. And when you are asking questions, you are talking less.
Leaders Talk Less
There are certainly times when a leader must motivate and inspire others with his words, whether in a rousing speech, or in a call to action with his employees. But generally, a leader must listen more than he talks. As referenced above, questions can serve a useful purpose. But there are frequent times when simply saying little and listening to the hurts, wants, or dreams of your team can be highly instructive to you and healing to them.
Leaders Don’t Interrupt
Interrupting is a trait that is not only disruptive to a meaningful conversation but it can cause frustration and even silence those with whom one seeks to converse. A leader who continuously interrupts others can send a variety of mixed signals such as impatience, superiority, being disinterested and more. So just don’t do it. Wait to speak.
Leaders Remove Distractions
When communicating with others, it’s critical to remove any distractions. In our digital world, it’s easy to be distracted with an iPhone or laptop rather than focusing in on what is being communicated to you. Yes, I struggle with this. But when someone begins talking with you, put everything else aside, look the person in their eyes, and actively engage in the conversation. You will be more apt to retain what was said to you, and the person you are speaking with will be validated in their thoughts and opinions.
Of course, there are many more traits of a good leader we could continue to highlight, but the above list is a good start. Master these, and you will be well on your way to being the kind of leader others respect and will gladly follow. And your effectiveness in addressing the concerns shared by those you lead will skyrocket.