What Do We Need in a Leader?

This year a new President of the USA will be elected. 2008 will be the last year of the eight-year Presidency of George Bush and, whoever will be elected the next President of the USA, he will need to face numerous challenges the USA is currently facing. In this respect, it is worth mentioning a profound economic crisis the USA have not suffered from for decades, numerous social problems, the involvement of the USA in military conflicts worldwide, including Iraq and Afghanistan, the problem of protection of human rights in the context of legislative changes introduced during the presidency of George W. Bush, and the ongoing threat of international terrorism. In such a situation, the American society needs a new leader who is able to unite the nation which is deeply divided. The new leader should be able to cope with the major challenges the US faces at the moment and unite the nation to preserve traditional American values, such as democracy, the respect to human rights, the supremacy of law on both domestic and international levels and individual liberties. In order to achieve this goal, the new leader needs to become a truly effective leader whom Americans can be confident in. At the same time, the epoch of lonely heroes has gone and a new President alone cannot solve all the problems of the nation. Instead, he needs to implement participative leadership, which could stop the practice of taking decisions by the President alone or by a limited circle of people, as it used to be during the presidency of George Bush, when vitally important decisions were pedaled by the Bush administration, without taking into consideration the opinion of the opposition as well as criticism from the part of public organizations. In such a way, the new leader should become a person who can involve other people in the process of decision making to the extent that decisions taken by the President will be consolidated decisions of his administration, political party he represents, opposition and public organizations (Hesselbein and Cohen, 164). In this respect, Barak Obama seems to be the candidate who is more likely to implement the concept of participative leadership than John McCain because the former is more inclined to changes and elimination of various barriers between Americans, while the latter is rather conservative and, therefore, unable to change radically the traditional leadership style used by American Presidents.

In order to understand what a kind of a leader American nation needs, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the major challenges the new President of the USA will need to overcome. It proves beyond a doubt that different challenges can define the leadership style, which is the most effective for specific challenges. For instance, when a nation is losing the confidence in the government and officials, an authoritarian leader cannot be effective, at least in the USA, where democratic traditions are strong. Instead, democratic, participative leader can be consistently more effective because of his ability to involve people in the process of decision making and, what is more important, due to the participative leadership people grow more confident in the leader, such as the President, and, therefore, they grow more confident in the authorities and their own power because they understand that they are influencing decisions taken by the authorities and the President.

In fact, the financial crisis and economic stagnation is probably the most serious challenge the new American President will need to solve in the nearest future. It is important to underline that the current economic stagnation has already accelerated the growth of social inequality in the USA. Even before the crisis, the American society suffered from the steadily widening gap between rich and poor as well as between the middle and the upper class. The crisis speeds up this process even more. As a result, the American society turns out to be split into rich and poor that increases the risk of social conflict and, what is even more important, minimizes the chances of those who are poor to use the full potential of the advancement the USA has made in recent years, such as the health care services of the high quality (Hesselbein and Cohen, 183). Such a division will also limit educational and job opportunities for many Americans and limit access to the higher education in particular.

In fact, this socio-economic division of the American society will aggravate existing problems which have persisted in the USA for decades.

For instance, there is still problem related to ethnic issues since some ethnic groups are in a worse socio-economic position compared to other. In addition, after 9/11 and the launch of anti-terrorist campaign, Arab-Americans became subjects of hostility from the part of other Americans. In such a way, ethnic conflicts may grow in power during the economic crisis in the USA and they will affect the development of the American society as a democratic society in the years to follow.

By the way, the Presidency of George W. Bush was marked by the introduction of extremely controversial legislative acts, such as the Patriot Act, which is a real threat to basic human rights of American citizens and immigrants as well as tourists visiting the country. Consequently, the preservation of fundamental democratic values will be another challenge to the new President and the solution of this problem will definitely need the involvement of public organizations (Hesselbein and Cohen,, 211). The latter means that the implementation of the participative leadership by the new President of the USA becomes practically a necessity but not just an effective tool which can be used by the new President to prolong his Presidency through being re-elected in four years.

At the same time, the international situation is also a serious challenge which affects the entire American society. American soldiers are engaged in military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the American authorities prefer to ignore the public opposition and continue their military campaigns. The new President, if he decides to apply the participative leadership approach, will need to take into consideration the position of a considerable part of the American society and withdraw American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan where the life of American soldiers is under a permanent threat.

In such a way, the new leader should be able to cope with bundle of domestic and international problems in order to regain the confidence of the American society in the American government and in the President as the head of the nation. At the same time, to achieve these goals the new President needs to apply the participative leadership approach, because it seems to be the most effective approach which can unite the American society and involve Americans into the decision-making process. In such a way, Americans will feel that their opinion is not ignored by the President and that they can define the future development of the country. In this respect, it should be said that Barak Obama seems to be the most suitable candidate who is able to implement the participative approach in practice and succeed to lead the American nation out of the crisis it has not seen since the epoch of the Great Depression.  At this point, it is possible to compare the new President of the USA to F.D. Roosevelt who managed to lead the country out of the crisis.

In fact, Barak Obama seems to be able to implement the concept of participative leadership because one of his strategic goals is the wide introduction of changes in the existing socio-economic and political system. He is primarily oriented on the middle class but he does not actually focus on specific groups within the American society. Instead, he rather wants to show that all Americans have a chance to succeed as he has already done, but he constantly emphases that it is not him in person but his team and the American nation who need changes (Rutenberg, 32). This means that implicitly Barak Obama admits the possibility of the application of the participative leadership approach, which implies the involvement of the team working with the leader as well as other people. In practice, this means that in the process of decision-making, the new President should not impose his decisions on his team or the entire nation. Instead, he should let each member of his teat to participate in the process of decision-making and make his/her own suggestions concerning the decision to be made. Moreover, on the grander scale, the new President could involve public organizations, organize public discussions of decisions, which can affect the development of the entire country. In such a way, the involvement of larger number of people will lead to taking decisions which are supported by the nation and which are comprehensible to the nation. At this point, Barak Obama can be able to implement this strategy because he is traditionally oriented on the dialogue with his partners as well as opponents and he takes into consideration the public opinion which means a lot to him.

As for the practical implementation of the concept of participative leadership by the new President of the USA, it is possible to give an example of a decision concerning the future policy of the USA in relation to Iraq and Afghanistan and withdrawal of American troops from these countries. According to the theoretical assumptions of participative leadership, the decision concerning the withdrawal of American army should be taken by the President on the basis of the involvement of a large number of specialists and the public at large in the process of decision-making (Northouse, 271)). To put it more precisely, it is obvious that the decision concerning the withdrawal of the US army from Iraq and Afghanistan will affect foreign relations, military and financial domains. Consequently, the new President should involve the state secretary, the Pentagon, and the Treasury in the process of decision-making. In such a way, specialists working on various aspects of the problem will be able to provide the President with a detailed information on possible effects of the withdrawal of the American army from Iraq and Afghanistan, including effects on the international relations of the US, on the American army and its potential, and American state budget and finance at large. In addition, specialists working on this problem should give their recommendations concerning the possible decision, i.e. they can recommend either to withdraw or not the US army from Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, the US President will get the opinion of different specialists concerning the possible decision. In fact, the number of state agencies and specialists can be as large as possible to get the full information concerning the decision but what is really important is the involvement of all the specialists in the decision making process. Eventually, it is necessary to initiate the public discussion of this problem in order to understand what the position of American people is, i.e. whether they support the withdrawal of the US army from Iraq and Afghanistan or not. In such a way, the President will need to consolidate different positions, analyze opinions of specialists and public and take the decision which has got the largest support among specialists and the public. In case of substantial differences in the position of specialists and people the position of ordinary Americans seems to be more significant.

In fact, this model of participative leadership and decision making process can be extrapolated on all other problems and challenges the new American President will face. But it is very important to implement the fundamental principle of the participative leadership ”“ the involvement of people in the process of decision making and the formation of positive relationships between the leader and people, who should be conscious of the fact that their position is taken into consideration by the leader and that their position does matter for the nation. In this respect, Barak Obama seems to be able to implement the concept of participative leadership due to his personal and professional qualities and inclinations.

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