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||April 1, 2002
11 changed Bush, or merely
he has shown the characteristics of leadership."
President Bush has been a strong leader since September
11 - any negative perceptions before that date have
been erased. The American people have resolved this
to a pollable certainty. And our legislators have been
according our determination the appropriate respect,
and our news media has been reporting it. Americans
do not confer this type of power often. We have been
tested many times before -- by world war, invasion,
surprise attack, evil empires, disease, internal dissent
and other threats. Sometimes we choose a leader to follow,
sometimes we do not.
Leadership has certain dimensions in common, regardless
of its venue.
Whether within a family, a business, or the political
arena, leaders demonstrate five characteristics for
those who would chart their rise. They incorporate key
attributes, attitudes, perspectives; they embody certain "watchwords."
"History" is the first such watchword. Bush
has kept sight of our history - who we are and who we
were. It is no coincidence that our most sacred political
speech begins "Four score and seven years ago"
- or that Bush uses terms like "axis of evil."
Contrast President Carter who, when using the term "malaise"
to describe the American character, lost sight of the
fact that America is and always has been a land and people
of unbounded optimism, possibility,and future. (Business
also provides innumerable examples of forgetting this
watchword. Carly Fiorina did not frame the Compaq merger
in terms consistent with the HP way. Jac Nasser failed
to recreate Ford as a consumer products company when he
failed to convince the Ford family why his path was consistent
with the historical purpose of Ford- making affordable,
The second watchword is "vision," and it has
been widely used and abused in recent times. Vision
is that which draws us to our destiny. Bush has envisioned
a world without terrorism, and America playing a central
role in achieving such a world. We as Americans want
that destiny, and how we get there is for "managers"
- in this case, cabinet members - to figure out. Many
who would spend the rest of their lives opposing the
actions of Attorney General Ashcroft would gladly give
their lives in the service of the President's vision.
President Reagan's vision took us from McCarthy hearings
and duck-and-cover drills to a world with the Soviet
Union relegated to the ash-heap of history. Foibles
of the Reagan managers (and there were many) did not
dilute the power of his leadership.
The third watchword is "integrity." The courage
to commit to higher principles and stay the course is
the basis for the followers' trust in their leader.
So long as Bush is seen as a man of integrity, he will
remain largely unscathed by political struggles and
scandal (Enron). President Clinton's legacy stands in
juxta-position. Peace and prosperity are woefully insufficient.
The fourth watchword is "graciousness." The
manner with which we operate is often as important as
the substance of our deeds. In the Collins and Porras
book, Built to Last, each of the "premier institutions
- the crown jewels - in their industries" have
as a core ideology, a commitment to treating their
employees and customers in an exemplary and gracious
fashion. Politics is no different, and Bush seems
to grasp this fundamentally. Beginning with his inauguration,
civility of tone and action has marked his actions
toward Republicans and Democrats alike. Whether he's
inviting Ted Kennedy to dinner and a movie, naming
buildings after RFK, or thanking Tony Blair for his
help with the war on terror, graciousness has been
The fifth watchword is "commitment." Bush
frames the war against terrorism as a long, expensive
and probably blood-filled commitment. Commitment springs
from values, and resists opinions based on situational
ethics. Building a cathedral or a Great Wall, or landing
on the moon takes commitment - often multigenerational.
Today, we are inundated by opinions - often engineered
by 24-7 punditry - untested by "the hard discipline
of reasonableness and honesty." Thoughtful values
find expression in our commitments, and commitments
Whether September 11 changed Bush, or merely unveiled
him, he has shown the characteristics of leadership. So
long as he embodies these leadership dimensions, the American
people will follow him.
James F. Bracher, creator of the Bracher Center for Integrity
in Leadership, is the founder and chairman of Dimension
Five Consultants, Inc. a management consulting firm in
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