Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Think You Can Do Better?

In a week comprised of infuriating recalcitrance, pinnacles of human drama, and absurd maneuvering for profit, some notable examples of leadership dilemmas and decisions have emerged for our consideration.

Governor Jerry Brown has stepped up with an unflinching proposal for dealing with a feral state budget. Then, met with partisan politics instead of teamwork, he displayed a political civilian’s sensibilities when he chastised Republicans in Sacramento: So…you’re not going to vote for putting the proposed tax extensions on the ballot in June. You’re not going to vote for restricting redevelopment funding. You’re not going to do anything to address the budget; and yet you still pick up a paycheck?

If he’s feeling a mite frustrated, we everyday folks can relate. There’s a lot of heehaw going around in the Sacramento Corral about the bold moves needed to wrangle the state’s budget, strap a saddle on it, and ride dressage; but what does he get for his good faith efforts? Hoof dragging. We see a lot of bucking and snorting, reminiscent of unbroken colts, but no forward movement nor ideas for a better way. The Governor must somehow finesse a concession from the legislators he’d like to give the spurs. And finesse may not be his long suit. What cube of sugar will it take to get them moving?

And make no mistake, when the Republicans do offer up their counter-proposal, the Democrats also balk and stall. Meanwhile…well, you know.

President Obama finds himself in a classic leadership pinch. When he’s circumspect, holding back, measuring the will of the United Nations and the Arab League before committing United States armed forces to battle in Libya, his detractors grumble that he’s tepid, indecisive. Then, when he takes assertive action, they cry out that he’s extended himself beyond his purview. These howls come from the very representatives who publicly asserted that the international community could not/should not stand by watching while a maniacal tyrant makes good on his promise to slaughter the citizens he claims to love. “You must act!” they say. “Wait! You didn’t consult us! You acted too quickly! You should have waited. You waited too long! Now hurry up and get out! And don’t leave before you finish the job!”

As chapters are dashed off in the history of the world and pages turn daily, we can’t help wondering what leadership will emerge across the Middle East. The impetus for revolution in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, didn’t come from nowhere. Yet it seems to have gushed in a stunning upsurge of human spirit and the will to be free. But when the old is out and the new is in, who will step forward to facilitate the formation of these fledgling democracies? How will they raise their newborn children?

Finally, from the sublime to the ridiculous: How about this for a leadership model to emulate? CBS brass is in negotiations to bring Charlie Sheen back to “Two and a Half Men.” As they say on Facebook, SMH (shaking my head). We can only imagine what WikiLeaks would reveal if there were “diplomatic” cables among CBS executives about Sheen’s seemingly deranged rants, sad escapades with prostitutes, and paranoid slurs of his bosses, no, his former bosses; no, wait for it – his bosses-to-be.

Yes here they go, working to put him center stage again in their brightly lit prime time venue. This must be where a leader assesses such things as Sheen displayed to be personal, and therefore unrelated to the public performances that made them all so many millions of dollars. What’s really important after all? And will we help them out by tuning in? “Winning!”

Can we do it? (Or, should we do it?) Should we/can we look at what’s onscreen and not think of what’s taken place behind the veneer? How about Michael Vick? Can we root for him and his team while scratching our best friend’s ears? What about Bill Clinton? Only after this many years are we starting to separate the flawed human being from the work he did and is doing. Is that fair?

Maybe it’s not for us to say, but we certainly have our opinions, our righteous indignation, and our certainty about what should be. We’d love to set ‘em all straight and tell ‘em how it would be if we were in charge.

How does that saying go? The one about what you wish for…?