As Autumn Approaches
Autumn means different things for different people. For me, it is a season of reflection. Most who know me recognize I am a history junkie. I hold history deeply. So, when Autumn arrives, I think about history a lot.
With the 2016 presidential election upon us, I found myself on the porch looking at the first tinge of color in the trees, and watching an array of Robert F. Kennedy 1968 campaign speech videos from that star-crossed year. Whether you lean Democratic, Republican or Independent, it is hard to label the late Senator from New York as anything less than the real thing. I’ve always considered Robert F. Kennedy one of our last authentic political leaders. Listening to him after so many years, I was spellbound.
In 1968, the nation was tearing itself apart over the war in Vietnam, in which the United States was quagmired, and with no clear strategy to win. It was tearing itself apart over racial unrest and the pitting of blacks against whites and whites against blacks. It was tearing itself apart over dishonesty from an administration that was struggling to stay on message: Americans had good reason to believe they were being lied to by those in positions of high office… and power. And the nation was tearing itself apart as the media, academia and other key brokers of information pitted the poor against the rich, and the rich against the poor. Robert Kennedy spoke passionately about those topics on television, and at almost every one of his campaign stops.
Fast forward to 2016. The nation is quagmired over war with radical terrorism, with no clear strategy to win in sight. The similarity to our failed policies in Vietnam is striking. The nation is tearing itself apart over racial unrest, and 24/7 narratives advanced by the media, political leaders, candidates and professional agitators who fuel the unrest. Americans suspect the political elite as never before, as it becomes crystal clear there is a nonstop parade of lies emanating from political leaders in high office and from the campaigns of both parties. And, once again, media-backed narratives and professional agitators pit poor against rich and rich against poor, largely for personal or organizational gain.
Perhaps, like me, you were around in 1968 to fully appreciate the gravity of that year. Or perhaps you have read about 1968, and fully appreciate the lessons of history. In 2016, Robert F. Kennedy is long gone, and no single, authentic leader like him is around. So it is up to others to lead authentically, and to demonstrate competence and balance.
Robert Kennedy stressed that we as Americans can make a difference. He spoke constantly about making an effort to change things for the better. He spoke constantly about the importance of making positive contributions. That message is not a Democratic message and it is not a Republican message. It was and remains, however, a message about authentic leadership.
In November, we owe it to ourselves, our children and to America to vote. Encourage everyone you know to vote. It is the single most powerful action we can take to demand authentic leadership. Then, be sure to hold those who are elected accountable. Refuse to settle for more of what has taken place. Demand authentic leadership, and we just might head down positive pathways again.
John P. Schreitmueller is a board certified executive coach practitioner, author and lecturer. His Atlanta-based firm specializes in leadership, organizational and career consulting and counseling for senior executives, business owners, business partners, and professionals.
Copyright 2016 by Resolute Consulting Group LLC