On Leadership—This message is for you, yes you

What is a good leader? This question is too important to ignore. The funny thing about leadership is that twenty or thirty years ago leadership coaches were scarce. No one really knew how to define a business coach who worked with people to help them become better managers, business people and leaders. Coaching used to be reserved for sports teams.  No one thought too much about leadership because you just knew a good leader when you laid eyes on one. Leadership speaks for itself.

Then the concept of leadership seeped into the business world. Suddenly executive and leadership coaches began popping up everywhere. And they didn’t have credentials per se. One of the best leadership coaches I have ever known, Dee Dee, didn’t have a college degree; in fact, she was a high school dropout, but she instinctively knew how to get people to become better leaders.  Another coach, Elizabeth, had a Ph.D., but lacked the common sense to teach people a task as simple as learning how to tie their own shoes laces.

In the last decade, leadership has become such a powerful buzz word and coaches have become so plentiful that a bonafide coaching industry has emerged. In 2014, A comprehensive industry report conducted by IBISWorld indicated that coaching is now a billion dollar industry. The 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study estimated that the industry has grown to produce  $2.3+ billion dollars per year, and that this revenue number represents a 19% increase above projections in 2011. And a report generated by the International Coach Federation (ICF) indicated that membership has more than tripled.

Today, there are so many leadership coaches that it is hard to discern one from another to determine who is effective and who is not. Many coaches clamor to get high search rankings on Google. Leadership coaches write listicles ad nauseum on LinkedIn offering dull tidbits that are meant to coax people to want to become better leaders. Leadership coaches like Dee Dee rely on word-of-mouth to drive new clients and accept cash and barter deals to pay for their coaching.  The solidly credentialed Elizabeth(s) rely on corporations to pay them. Many companies, especially larger ones, have a budget for leadership training and need to hire someone, and they will always hire someone who has the better credentials as a default position to justify the expenditure as a line item in their budget.

Leadership is taken seriously by our most esteemed publications. The Harvard Business Review has made leadership a core offering to its smart readership. It’s rare to see an issue that does not espouse some new twist on the core principles of leadership. Other publications, ranging from the New York Times to Forbes Magazine, routinely serve up delicious discourse on leadership. Who hasn’t read Adam Bryant’s Corner Office column—a conversation with a leader in business—appearing in every Sunday’s New York Times?

Sue Ashford, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, has built a lifetime career largely based on the concept of leadership-in-practice: how leadership is attained and why a person is accorded the status as a leader. In one recent HBR article Sue Ashford cited a set of qualities derived from her research on leadership that identified the qualities that people associate with “leader”: “sensitive,” “intelligent,” “dedicated,” and “dynamic.”

When you look at the pattern of the stories generated about leadership, coupled with the revenue being spent to build better leaders, there is every reason to believe that leadership is important to many Americans. Now here is the sour note, the real question that begs to be asked: how did all of these leadership coaches and pundits allow the POTUS to rise from the lowest bastion of reality TV to reign as a bonafide leader?

To drive an important point home, I’ll ask the same question again: what is a good leader? Our POTUS has broken new ground as the epitome of warped leadership and has made it so that our nation is undergoing a dangerous crisis. The crisis can be defined as total lack of leadership that has never before been so blatant, so perverse and so deadly. The qualities of a leader: “sensitive,” “intelligent,” “dedicated,” and “dynamic,” are nowhere to be found. If anything, these qualities are being trampled upon as surely as if they were the last frayed vestiges of the American Flag. The chief qualities of the POTUS can be defined as foul-mouthed, abusive, disruptive and insane. Here are tweets from July 25 to October 12, 2017. These are words from his own mouth:

Fake news, the very dishonest Fake News Media is out of control! …The failing ‪@nytimes, which has made every wrong prediction about me including my big election win (apologized), is totally inept! …Not only does the media give a platform to hate groups, but the media turns a blind eye to the gang violence on our streets!....Drain the Swamp should be changed to Drain the Sewer - it's actually much worse than anyone ever thought, and it begins with the Fake News!...It's hard to read the Failing New York Times or the Amazon Washington Post because every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!...A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey's, must stop!...Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is "sick." …All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!...It's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President….As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!...Sleazy Adam Schiff, the totally biased Congressman looking into "Russia," spends all of his time on television pushing the Dem loss excuse!...Liddle Bob CorkerLittle Rocket Man…Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan…I was saddened to see how bad the ratings were on the Emmys last night - the worst ever. Smartest people of them all are the "DEPLORABLES."… I love the White House, one of the most beautiful buildings (homes) I have ever seen… But Fake News said I called it a dump - TOTALLY UNTRUE…they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!...I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet...Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don't go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time….Crooked Hillary

Leadership! Somehow there is a disconnect between the belief that leadership is very important in our culture and the present reality of the POTUS, so I’ll ask the same question a third time: what is a good leader? You know the answer. A good leader is someone who knows how to bring out the best in people. A good leader sets a good example for others, especially for children, and makes old people tremble with pride. A good leader gets people to do more than they ever thought they could do. A good leader inspires people to climb mighty heights and to withstand any adversity. A good leader knows how to move mountains in order to build a truly better path for all people.

So here is a final question: Where have all of our leaders gone? We deserve good leadership!

Call to Action: This election day, November 7, 4pm Atlantic time, 3pm EST, 2pm Central Time, 1pm, Mountain Time and 12noon Pacific time, I urge everyone to come out of your homes and offices, no matter where you are, to bow your heads and stand still for one minute of silence. It does not matter what faith you are or if you have any faith at all.  I ask that you stand still for one minute in prayerful silence… because we are all Americans and we are in need of good leadership. Take a minute of silence to reflect on what it is to be an American. From coast to coast, city to city, town to town, rippling across prairie and the valleys in between mountains say one small prayer: We are all Americans, and we deserve good leadership. In our one minute of silence, the sound of freedom will live.


Patricia Vaccarino

Patricia Vaccarino has over 30 years' expertise working with a wide range of national and international clients, in all areas of public relations: managing worldwide campaigns for global companies and developing strategy for small companies, startup ventures, and individuals.

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We deserve good leadership - Call To Action- Take a Minute of Silence Tuesday, November 7, 2017