Written by Chriss W. Street
President Barack Obama sought to demonstrate his leadership ability on this year’s anniversary of 9/11 by leading a grand international and domestic coalition against a brutal tyrant in the Middle East. But after much dithering, neither Congress nor the international community was willing to follow his path into Syria. Although a diplomatic settlement to the crisis controlled by the Russians may be a serious defeat for the President’s ego, avoiding the risk of escalation is a relief for the U.S. military and the American people. Obama should learn that real leadership is not just about the title.
Best-selling author on management, John C. Maxwell, asks his readers; “Are you really leading, or are you just taking a walk?” He points out that “losing touch with your people is a huge leadership landmine, because it will “damage your credibility and destroy your influence.”
The ultimate demonstration of losing touch with “your people” is the fact that President Obama has managed for the first time since the Viet Nam War to motivate active duty military soldiers, sailors and Marines to protest in uniform against his leadership in starting a war in Syria. In series of anonymous posts on the Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook page, dozens of uniformed enlisted men and officers are pictured covering their faces with signs reading some version of: “I didn’t join the Navy to fight for al Qaeda in a Syrian civil war.”
Each of these active duty military personnel protesting in uniform is at risk of being court-marshaled for “Failure to obey order or regulation” and “Contempt toward officials.” Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the punishment for airing such grievances is up to three years in a military prison.
From a leadership standpoint, it is incredibly hypocritical that President Obama would be directing Secretary of State John Kerry with the task of trying to build an international coalition to follow Obama’s lead into Syria. Kerry bragged on the ABC TV show called Viewpoints on Nov. 6, 1971, that while in uniform he threw away as many as nine of his combat medals to protest the war in Vietnam President Barack Obama’s call for limited bombing campaign across Syria as just punish for the actions of Bashar al-Assad, sound allot like President Lyndon Johnson’s call for limited bombing campaign across North Vietnam as just punishment for the actions of Ho Chi Minh.
Syria is a war that most senior U.S. leaders oppose. In testimony on September 10th to the House Homeland Security Committee hearing regarding the merits of bombing Syria, Ret. Major General and former Commandant of the U.S. War College Robert Scales stated that Obama’s “proposed fire power strike violates every principle of war, including surprise, mass and a clearly defined and obtainable strategic objective.”
President Obama might benefit in the future if he focused on John C. Maxwell’s four principals of leadership:
- Value people. Leadership becomes effective when you acknowledge that people are your most appreciable asset, and treat them accordingly.
- Avoid positional thinking. Your position or title shouldn’t define your leadership.
- Love the people you lead. Do not look at your people as cogs in the machinery of your organization, and you as the operator.
- Understand the Law of Significance. One is too small a number to achieve greatness.
Maxwell states: “When we win, nothing hurts; when we lose, everything hurts.” President Obama must truly be in pain after suffering a major leadership failure and losing an enormous amount of influence with Congress and the American people. He would be wise to take Maxwell’s advice and learn from his leadership failure that “long term, winning isn’t everything, but learning is.”