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Slade Gorton
Political leader

Slade Gorton

A former U.S. Senator and Washington State Attorney General, Slade Gorton served on the 9/11 Commission.

No back-seat drivers

Leadership, or perhaps heroism and triumph is a better description, is easier to discern Sullenberger's case and in sports and war than it is in politics and public policy, because it is clear cut and unequivocal.

Ronald Reagan was the most successful national leader of the last several decades but few recognized it at the time. In fact almost every incident in his presidency that led to the winning of the Cold War was widely and bitterly criticized at the time. And I think it safe to say that Lincoln was among the most unpopular and detested of presidents almost to the day of his assassination.

This is not to deprecate the actions of Captain Sullenberger; on the contrary, he did everything right instantly, coolly and courageously and the result was an immense human triumph. But it happened so fast that no one had the time to back-seat drive during the crisis and the unequivocal result left no opportunity to claim that it could have been better after the fact.

No political leader, not even a Lincoln or a Washington, ever gets a comparable opportunity, and so successful leadership in the face of that kind of challenge requires an additional vital element: Not only sound judgment but the courage to stick to one's principles even in the face of bitter and unremitting criticism.

By Slade Gorton

 |  October 20, 2009; 6:32 AM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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