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What Makes a Leader?

By Doug Patton

As America counts down to a crucial decision on Election Day 2004, our national polarization has reached epic proportions. In recent years, Americans have been assaulted by disingenuous politicians, greedy corporate moguls, corrupt church leaders and agenda-driven media types, and there is a component of leadership that was once abundant in American life and which today is in short supply. That element is trust.

Gone are the days when Americans trusted a journalist as they once trusted Walter Cronkite. Corporate pirates have raped their investors financially and created a deep distrust of Wall Street. Despite encouraging evidence of a spiritual renewal among the American people, the reputation of our religious leadership has taken a beating in recent years, from the televangelist scandals to the shameful cover-up of pedophile priests. And political leaders from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton have betrayed our confidence to the point that we can scarcely stand to vote for them, much less actually follow them.

These examples of broken trust, combined with a narcissistic view of life spawn by much of our popular culture, also have created a devastatingly negative effect on the American family as leadership in the home has been corrupted and misdirected.

In his new book, “Trust — The One Thing That Makes or Breaks a Leader,” Les Csorba dissects each of these public and private arenas and illustrates the dearth of trust in each of them. Approaching the subject from an unabashedly Christian point of view, Csorba places his analysis on the sure footing of absolutes. There is nobility in the world he wants to defend and preserve, and he makes no apology for his belief that those who would be trustworthy are those who recognize that there is someone greater than themselves to whom each leader will ultimately have to answer.

To illustrate his point, Csorba lists “The Seven Principles of Trust” that mold truly great leaders. According to Csorba, trusted leaders:

are cast in the crucible of their experiences;
are molded by “formal” and “informal” mentors;
live out selfless character;
have a sense that they are called to lead;
handle privilege with great care;
are tenaciously focused on their objectives;
invest in the lives and leadership of followers

Csorba leaves little doubt that he has seen each of these strengths played out in the life and service of George W. Bush, and that it is these character traits that have sustained the president since September 11, 2001. Having served as a White House advisor for Presidential Personnel during the administration of the president’s father, George H.W. Bush, Csorba first got to know “Dubya” during the 1988 race for the White House, which pitted Bush Sr. against then-Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.

Csorba believes that George W. Bush’s crucible was, unquestionably, 9/11. Few days after the attack, the president was asked by reporters what he prays for himself. As tears welled up in his eyes and he fought to maintain his composure, we saw the character of the man manifested in his answer:

“I don’t think about myself,” Bush said. “I think about the families, the children…I’m a loving guy, and I am also someone, however, who has a job to do, and I intend to do it. And this is a terrible moment, but this country will not relent until we have saved ourselves and others from the terrible tragedy that came upon America.”

As Bob Woodward later wrote, “For two days, Bush has been responding as president, genuinely but still within the norms of expected presidential behavior. It was perhaps too detached and impersonal. What he had been saying didn’t seem quite him…Standing there in the Oval Office and crying made it clear that human emotions trumped even the office of the President.”

Csorba writes that “Leadership is character in motion.” He is right, and he has written an important piece of non-fiction here. With Western Civilization under assault from terrorists abroad and from secularists within, “Trust—The One Thing That Makes or Breaks a Leader” comes along at an important moment in our history. I urgently recommend it.

Note: Next week, Doug Patton will review “The Meaning of ‘Is’ — The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton” by former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-GA.

Doug PattonDoug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a speechwriter, policy advisor and communications director for federal, state and local candidates, elected officials and public policy organizations. His weekly columns are published in newspapers across the country and on selected Internet websites. Readers can e-mail him at dpatton@neonramp.com.



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