A Quotation for the US Election

September 1, 2012

I’m looking forward to the US election. Well, actually, I’m looking forward to its passing. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my right to vote; thankful for the chance to live in a free nation and participate in the greatest experiment of self-government in the history of the world.

But recently Vicky and I cancelled our land telephone line. We don’t want the automated recordings and the unsolicited spam. Fortunately, we’re intelligent enough to make up our mind without the surreal, unbelievable amount of money and energy spent by both parties to try to convince us to vote for them.

In fact, the more each candidate does to try to sell me on voting for them, the less inclined I am to do just that. The reason has little to do with what either stands for. In fact, they spend so little time talking about their own ideas, if we were to choose based simply on what we could find in mainstream media, we should end up depressed, if not suicidal. According to each, the other is the single worst person to vote for, ever. If the other is elected, the world may come to an end, or at least America will cease to exist as a free nation.

I’m reminded of a quote by a politician from 100 years ago.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

Personally (and officially on the Lead Change Group blog, too!) I’m not going to join the criticism party. Leadership requires that we not simply point out the problem. No one wins when every comparison is designed to negate the other. Leadership demands that we bring ideas and solutions instead of criticism and discord. We must argue for our ideas, rather than against the others. Nothing is gained by criticizing the other people or ideas, but by visualizing, collaborating and moving toward the future.

I’ll vote in this election, but my energy and my support will have to be reserved for a future election; one where each candidate talks only about themselves and their ideas.  My ideal candidate is the one with the courage to lobby for their future without criticizing their competition, be it a candidate, an idea or a vision.

Leadership is about the future. Use the past to create the future, not to criticize your competition. Remember, it’s not the critic who counts.

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