Monkey See, Monkey Do Politics

The premise is that the leadership style of the U.S. president affects and sets the standard for leadership worldwide. If this premise is correct, what does it mean for us here and the world in general?

The current U.S. president obviously prefers a direct, confrontational style of leadership with him as the key decision maker. He neither welcomes nor encourages dissenting views and, indeed, is quick to denigrate and/or punish those with the audacity to question his judgment. It is his way or the highway. Despite its enormous drawbacks, this style is amazingly effective especially when it is unopposed by our codependent Congress and federal judiciary.

There are several ways to classify this style. One would be “hierarchical” where the key leader sits atop an organization shaped like a pyramid where all decisions converge to the top and are settled by one person who arrogantly assumes they know all they need to know to make any decision regardless of the consequences. This type of leader tends to surround themselves with yesmen/yeswomen and/or sycophants. With this style of leadership, the key leader is a poor listener, poor motivator, rules through fear, demands obedience, solves problems unilaterally, dissolves trust, prefers win-lose negotiation, causes low moral and poor teamwork, and increases the legal risks in the future.

Since the leadership style of the popularly-elected U.S. president and alleged most powerful chief executive in the world gets more press coverage than any other leader in the world, their style tends to become the preferred style of many/most public and private leaders globally. At home this means that more and more organizations tend to favor the hierarchical style with all the shortcomings mentioned above. This reduces the overall quality of the workplace and encourages the rise of the workplace bully who thrives on intimidating and abusing their co-workers. Globally, this style of leadership tends to favor confrontation and win-lose negotiation that favors the leader and their cronies and often leads to violence and war which, here again, favors their cronies (like, say, Haliburton and armament manufacturers) and uses the “little” people for cannon fodder.

The economic effects of this leadership style create a lose-lose for workers here and abroad. We outsource good-paying jobs here, replace them with low-paying service jobs, and cover up the crime with misleading government employment estimates which proclaim low unemployment while the actual level of un- and underemployment soars coincident with alarming levels of federal and personal debt. Overseas, we turn “less-developed” (a rather loaded economic term beyond the scope of this article) countries into sweat shops and toxic waste dumps which will cause health problems for generations and destroy self-sufficiency there and here.

A key negative associated with the hierarchical leadership style is that it often tends to dissolve trust with employees or, when speaking globally, other nations, religions, ethnic groups, etc. Once trust is lost, it is extremely difficult to restore. Witness the infamous Hatfield-McCoy Feud of the late 1880s along the border of West Virginia and Kentucky. Once trust dissolved between these two clans, a deadly conflict ensued and hard feelings endure to this day among the ancestors.

As the U.S. government and corporations engage in more or less universal win-lose negotiations with the world, we steadily erode trust with former allies and create enduring animosity among much of the world including the predominantly Muslim Middle East. This does not bode well for future generations here who may still be fighting “terrorists” bred by our heedless aggressiveness towards all “enemies” of U.S. hegemony and greed. As we needlessly throw ourselves on our sword in Iraq for Freedom, democracy, oil Haliburton, etc. (take your pick), we cultivate enemies who will hate us for generations while sharply decreasing our ability to simply defend ourselves at home.

For those wishing to look at a similar situation but untainted by current biases and opinions, you might want to read the The Memorial: A Novel of the Vietnam War (1980) by former combat Marine James Amos who doesn’t shy away from the graphic nature of this bloody conflict and its inconsistencies there and at home. If this book hasn’t already been written by a veteran of Iraq, it soon will be but it will be just another reminder that our hierarchical leaders have never had much appreciation for history and therefore doomed to repeat it, over and over again, at the cost of thousands of mostly well-meaning young men and women in uniform and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children who are “just” collateral damage.

On page 191, Amos observes that “In the beginning, Lyndon Johnson had said, ‘In the long view of history, these years are the early summer of America. Our land is young. Our strength great. Our course is far from run.’ The true strength of America was running its course with integrity and honor, caught up in a war that had neither. The true strength of America was being dissipated in the killing fields of Vietnam, where these boy-men asked nothing more than for their country to love them as much as they loved it.”

TIM CAMPBELL lives in rural Mississippi where he runs, plays tennis, reads, and occasionally writes a sentence or two about integrated conflict management, a subject not much in favor these days. He can be reached at: