Politico’s story on Bill Clinton’s recent 70-percent approval rating, the highest ever recorded for him, attributes his popularity to his ever increasing focus on global issues eschewing political firestorms. While the former President has clearly evolved into a man focused on creating solutions to “neutral problems,” is this an evolution of character or the making of a true leader? Furthermore, is it yet another sign that the state of our current political system squeezes out any ability to lead from among those who have the passion and desire to do so?
The article provides some interesting reflection points:
Freedom from financial and political constraints is vital. Some of the relaxed and poetic sides of Clinton are emerging according to those closest to him as a result of feeling unencumbered by the need to earn money and attain political favor of various interest groups. While leaders need to work with various people to achieve goals, those whose base of “power” rests in the hands of others are never free. Today’s high-ranking office holders are generally career politicians, whose time in office outnumbers years engaged in other work, creating a need to stay in office rather than to lead.
Change often starts and is fostered in non-governmental and community service organizations. A shifting focus away from governmental solutions shows awareness by President Clinton that true innovation and change often take place outside the bureaucratic and political constraints of government. For one whose entire life focus was on becoming president- and for one who admits to missing the job- it is an ironic twist to come to a point where wisdom sinks in and the solution points not in the ego-fueled world of politics rather in the service-minded non-profit sector.
Ideal leaders have good intentions and good characters. While one’s character is central to their ability to lead, everyone has flaws and no one wants to see them played out in today’s media circus. Too many people who can provide much needed leadership in our political system are staying on the sidelines to avoid the frenzied media scrutiny that no sane person would ever invite. And, we all know where there path of good intentions goes to . . . having worked with political leaders for the past 20-plus years, I have yet to meet a candidate or office holder who didn’t want to achieve some good and believe that he or she could play a role in creating it. The challenge, however, is to take action on creating solutions rather than holding on to the ideal while focusing the bulk of one’s efforts on maintaining an iron-clad grip on their office.
President Clinton is a President who will not be forgotten in the annals of history. Extraordinary for his charisma that inspired a period of peace and prosperity, that many who love to experience again, and ordinary in his flaws as a human being he is man still creating his legacy. Perhaps one of his greatest contributions can be seen through the lens of leadership. Is a man who experienced some of the greatest highs and lows of any president, a man who achieve his greatest good out of office rather than in it? And if that is the case, what is it saying to us about the future of political leadership in this country?