Whither the Passion for Leadership?

Initially posted on February 24, 2016 from the website kirkrandazzo.com


Normally I would wait a bit longer before writing a new blog post, but the events of the current presidential election prompt me to raise an extremely important question – whither the passion for leadership?

I ask this question because in my leadership workshops and classes I talk with people about the importance of a leader conveying his/her vision to the group/team. And, in communicating this vision the leader must remember to keep the focus on the team (see my first blog post on this regard). Therefore, leadership becomes a ‘We/Us’ endeavor toward a set of goals or ideas.

Any examination of the presidential primaries reveals that we have lost sight of this part of leadership. Rather than having individuals demonstrate their passion for their vision and discussing how the team (in this case the United States) can move forward toward those goals, campaigns have become a personality contest among the candidates. Rather than presenting voters with visions for America, candidates’ campaigns are focused on the person – an ‘I/Me’ focus instead of ‘We/Us’.

Additionally, some candidates – particularly in the Republican primaries – are resorting to bullying tactics and playing upon the most negative aspects of humanity: intolerance, vulgarity, disrespect, racism, etc. In my Introduction to Leadership Studies class we discuss how effective leaders rely on their core values and principles to build a foundation for leadership. We also discuss how these leaders ‘Model the Way’ (borrowing a phrase from the book The Student Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner) by setting an example and serving as a role mode for these values. Right now, some candidates are exemplifying the worst of humanity by reinforcing poor values. Is this what we want as President of the United States?

Whither the passion for leadership? Where are the ideas? When will we have an honest and open debate about the candidates’ visions for our country? Will people finally stand up and say ENOUGH! – enough of the rudeness, enough of the lack of civility, enough of playing to everyone’s base fears?

Unfortunately, until we (the voters) demand a return to decency, respect, and decorum we should expect more of the same. Whither the passion for leadership? Right now it is withering on the vine, being choked out by abrasive individuals who have forgotten the ‘servant’ aspect of public service and turned ‘politics’ into a curse word.



Author: Kirk Randazzo

I am a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Carolina Leadership Initiative at the University of South Carolina. I also conduct public presentations on a variety of aspects related to leadership, conflict management, and public speaking.

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