Yesterday, I was yearning for a roast chicken, and in need of some medication so I decided to go to the Costco on E. 116th Street. On the subway map it looks quite simple. Take the train to 116, walk four blocks and like magic – warehouse heaven. And it was simple but I forgot to plan for what to do once the shopping was over and my bag (I remembered to bring a solid, big, carry satchel) was full. You cannot go to Costco and not find things you need desperately, like 300 AA batteries and Acai juice.
Anyway the bag was heavy and no one volunteered to schlep for me, so what to do. Well, because I have amazing leadership qualities I decided to take a bus to the subway and then walk the two blocks (which I figured could be handled) back to the apartment.
Speaking of leadership, am I too late to talk about the vacuum in leadership – everywhere? The reason for this is that it’s easier to follow than to lead. But following has never been comfortable for me. The minute someone tells me what to do it is inevitable that I won’t do t. And if I do, I won’t do it the way I’m told to do it. [Editor's Note: Do NOT tell Iris to "have a nice day!"] That’s just bratty, right? But bratty or other wise I have always preferred to be the beacon of light that guides the sailors to the shore – rather than be the rocks or the sand. (I have no idea what that means but go with it for a while.)
When I was thirteen I learned that if you look like you know where you are walking people will follow you. You don’t have to know anything, you just have to look confident about not being clueless. This quality is especially important in politics because no one has any idea about where they are going or what they are doing, so it’s easy to emerge as a genius just by looking like you know what you are doing.
My point is, it’s not hard to lead if you have some courage, maybe a little chutzpah, and the ability to make a decision. The problem is, Presidents are notorious for indecision. Maybe it’s because deciding has often led the country into war or other calamity. Maybe it’s because bad decisions lead to one term Administrations. And maybe it’s because making a decision that impacts the world, is just too damn dangerous and the consequences for a mistake can be monstrous. But not making a decision is, what I call, the passive aggressive way to decide. For example, if you determine that there is a need for a change, but you don’t decide how the changes will be made, changes still get made, but not by you, and not necessarily the changes you want.
It can work both ways – not deciding and always deciding, some call this micromanaging or being a control freak. Jimmy Carter was not a popular President because he wanted to make decisions about everything from, who played on the White House tennis court, to where to hold the Salt II talks. But he did one thing that was incredibly courageous. He made a commitment to human rights -- very good. But in his mind that meant we couldn’t go the Olympics because the Soviet Union was behaving horribly (they “invaded Afghanistan”...sound familiar?) – very bad. There clearly needs to be a middle ground somewhere between these two opposite ends of the continuum. But that is also difficult.
The media is talking about the vacuum in leadership by President Obama. As we used to say, in the years when dinosaurs were king, Duh! There isn’t an issue that he has dealt with successfully, or at least that is what it seems—and perception IS reality. Part of the problem is that because they were afraid to alienate anyone (like Ronald Reagan Democrats) there seemed to be nothing decisive in their policy referendums. Even “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” remains unresolved – and how stupid is that. The sad thing is that you can’t teach someone to be a leader – it is either who you are, or it’s not. And you can’t teach courage – you either have it or you don’t. So what do we do? I don’t know, maybe an outing to Costco is the answer. We’re just sayin’.... Iris