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All Points West: The better qualities of leadership
January 29, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Leadership … Is one of those more ambiguous concepts.

Not too long ago, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts reportedly opted not to meet with President Obama on Jan. 13 when he visited Omaha because he couldn’t fit it into his schedule. Later, he announced he could, based on genius reshuffling of appointments by his staff, thankfully so. Obama hadn’t been in Nebraska’s largest city since his 2008 presidential campaign, nor had any sitting president ever visited the University of Nebraska – Omaha. Despite Ricketts’ or any other government officials’ personal beliefs, the rules still apply, one needs to honor presidential authority and a chain of command. I have probably said this ad-nauseam to my own troops: I may not like or may have differences with the person given charge over me, but to think or act any differently would most likely be interpreted as insubordination. To put it another way, I have saluted officers, considering their seemingly unforgivable personal flaws. Yet, no person is above sin.

When I worked in D.C., one of the wisest things any of my mentors said was that he was accountable to those who served under him; meaning, he took to heart his responsibility for their well-being. Sounds like such a simple thing to say, but without followers, there are no leaders.

Like many of the other leaders I admired, he was also a believer that great leaders learned how to follow before they could effectively lead.
I’m not so sure some of our current era leaders know this. Or, perhaps, like younger generations, they feel entitled. Therefore, because of their own sense of self, they shirk boundaries. They misbehave, or ignore protocol. I admit, I’m speculating about the causes, but I don’t guess about the results. All you need to do is sit back and watch a three-year old imitate their father. Profanity out of the mouths of toddlers is a sure-fire no-go.

A disturbing trend in federal leadership is the lack of military experience of those who fill the hallways and offices of our Congressional buildings.

Upon last report in Congress, there were only a small segment of Senators and Representatives who have this listed on their resume. CNN reported only 20 percent of the 535 members of the latest Congress have served in the military – 25 from the Senate and 90 from the House of Representatives. Compare this with 1975, when 70 percent of elected officials served in the armed forces, according to the same report.

The military represents a segment of our society which values self-sacrifice and selfless service. It’s one of the very reasons I believe it’s time to make military service a requirement for all our citizens. It is the undergirding for making important decisions – sometimes those decisions are a matter of life and death. To stress the importance, consider the nearly 2 million people affected by Gov. Ricketts’ decisions. Now, compare it with the hundreds of millions seeking life, liberty and happiness.

A valuable lesson – whether right, wrong or indifferent to issues – leaders, and especially presidents, governors, mayors, and even business leaders, must possess the moral courage to make a decision, and believe me, not all of them can or will be popular. At a recent drill weekend in Cheyenne, Wyo., I attended an education briefing on sexual assault – something in which reporting has become prevalent in our military. Who is to say how it’s going in the civilian world?

Without ranging off the subject, suffice it to say the briefing represented an urgent matter, and some would say, one which has reached crisis or epidemic proportions. In short, this meeting was important and needed ears open and mouths shut. My rules, when attending briefings, are Step 1. Sit closest to the front, and Step 2. Give your undivided attention to the speaker. One soldier felt as though they were being treated like a child.

Like any leader, there are methods to my madness. First, I considered the well-being of my soldiers. I set the example. I took copious notes on the briefing, invaluable in learning how the rights of female soldiers might be impinged, and more importantly, protected. For practical purposes, my soldiers sat together (unit integrity), and nearest the fire exits (safety). I didn’t need to explain what I felt was implicit. The president is my commander in chief. He was elected to office because most of us trust his decision-making abilities.

There’s a certain short-sightedness, which I cannot abide. Ricketts, and he is not the first one, to not give due respect to the office (even his momentary lapse counts) of the President of the United States (not the person, not Obama, not Bush, not Clinton, nor any of the past so-called leaders of the free world). One who gives the impression he is not willing to honor the chain of command, is also one who is refusing to follow orders.

Careful, good and conscientious leaders MUST set the example.
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