The Tea Party reveals our leadership vacuum
Q: Has the recent success of the Tea Party come because of, or in spite of, the movement's lack of a formal leadership structure? Along with Wikipedia, open-source software and organizations like moveon.org, is this another example of the power of distributed leadership?
The issue here isn't diffused leadership or distributed leadership; it's a leadership vacuum. When a society or a nation perceives that it lacks a strong leader, that leads to anxiety and uncertainty, which in turn creates an opportunity for others to come along and exploit the fear and anger for their own gain.
The Tea Party can be viewed as a manifestation of the current anxiety and uncertainty. This sort of thing can be expected when unemployment is at nearly 10 percent, not counting the many people who have abandoned the job market in frustration and those who are "under-employed" in jobs that fall short of their skill levels.
People have seen that the government has spent a lot of money on stimulus programs. They know that a health bill and a financial-reform bill have passed. But they don't see how all these things have benefited them (despite the fact that the stimulus spending probably kept our economy from collapsing). That's a problem of communication. The leaders of our government, at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, have not demonstrated that they understand the difficulties, the needs and the desires of all the Americans who are hurting. So into the breach have stepped the Sarah Palins, the Glenn Becks and those members of Congress who recognize they have something personally to gain by tapping into the fears and frustrations of millions of people.
Technology has enabled countless individuals and organizations to express themselves; everyone with a computer can have a soapbox, everyone can be a publisher. This gives the impression of a diffuse leadership, but what these things really provide is information. That's fine; we can always use information if it's accurate, but that's not leadership. Being a true leader is about giving voice to dreams and goals. It certainly isn't about voicing fear and negativity, which, sad to say, seem to be the dominant themes of our national discourse these days.
September 21, 2010; 10:05 AM ET
Category: Government leadership , Political leadership Save & Share:
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