One of my first jobs was on an assembly line making commercial refrigerators in St. Louis. Qualifying for the job was simple: If you could write your first name, you qualified.
In my case, it was even simpler: Pop got me the job. Young and arrogant, I saw everything wrong with everyone in that place, especially the supervisors. As most of the supervisors rose through the ranks, they were either related to someone higher up or able to write their middle name. Ambition came naturally to me. As I saw idiot after idiot getting promoted, I thought to myself, I want to be that idiot. I didn’t do well there but learned a lot, mostly about me, and how, if I were a supervisor, I’d want to fire me. Bad attitude.
Over the next 50 or so years, I made some improvements to that bad attitude and rose to captain in the Air Force, superintendent in a large city department and even “supervised” in the offices of those elected to lead. I’d like to think that a commission in the U.S. military, which I believe is the world’s best leadership program, and a study of one I believe to be the world’s greatest leader, Jesus Christ, helped me to overcome some deficiencies in my attitude and expertise. In the Air Force, I learned the nuts and bolts of leadership; how to grow good attitudes and esprit de corps in yourself and others; how to give and follow orders; and how to be mission-oriented. From Jesus, I learned that to lead, you must follow. The greatest must be the least.
Let’s not pretend I became a great leader, but I did make some improvements from that spoiled, arrogant idiot with the bad attitude I would have fired. I learned leadership is about serving, and I learned a good attitude can overcome a multitude of personal and skill deficiencies. One might say I was still that idiot, only now I had a good attitude.
A quick look at the “leaders” in D.C. and California confirms that things aren’t much different there than they were back at the factory in St. Louis. Clowns to the left, jokers to the right, here we are. We are our own worst idiots if we keep playing by these rules. Too many of our current leaders act — well, they act like I did when I was that guy I would have fired. It’s time they get what I deserved!
It’s really pretty simple. In the example from the military and from Jesus’ life, you see leadership as service to others. The respected officer is one who is willing to charge up that hill, just like Jesus was willing to climb Golgotha, in service to others. Why not expect servant-leadership from our elected officials? We should seek leaders with a servant’s heart, a shepherd who cares for the entire flock. We’re not seeing that in Sacramento or Washington.
It's a new election season, but it’s that assembly line all over again, this time of candidates supported by political party machines that spit out one defective idiot after another. We like to complain about the dysfunction in our system, but until we stop voting Democrat or Republican and start voting for leaders with a servant’s heart, we’re being the idiots who are going to keep getting the same defective product. As you survey the candidates on your ballot this season, don’t think about their political party; vote for those whose record of public service shows this type of servant-leadership. You don’t have to look far in Kern County to see which leaders have chosen divisiveness, acrimony, money, power and personal ambition.
These last five decades, many of which I’ve spent in government, including an elected official’s office, I saw it doesn’t really matter what our politics are. We all really want the same things. It does matter who our leaders are. We need to seek leaders who’ll serve all of us. And for those of you aspiring leaders whose ambition is to serve but may fear what this path requires, let me exhort you — be that idiot!