The Quality of Leadership

Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Reading Sunday's New York Times I was struck by a phrase used repeatedly by our president in describing a quality he seeks in Supreme Court justices. Not only must a candidate be smart, but also s/he should demonstrate the "depth and breadth of one's empathy."

Struck, quietly, struck.

This is why Barack Obama is my president.

He has the ability to elevate a personal attribute that many would consider "soft" to a high-level criteria for a most important job. To do it seriously, and cast it as pragmatic as well.

Imagine if more of the leaders in our daily lives were a bit less concerned with the bottom line, and a bit more capable of recognizing "who the weak are and who the strong are in our society." What if instead of protecting the powerful, the employed, the well-schooled, they instead emphasized the need to protect the powerless (even from themselves)?

Obama said, “I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book,” he said. “It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.”

We could replace "justice" and "laws" with "education" and "policies" or "practices" so easily. Just think about it.