Moral Leadership, Pt. 3

This is Part THREE of a THREE-part series written for friends and followers of Christ, who live in the United States, as we each seek to survive the mysterious year 2020 and prepare for a generation changing election in November. My friendship and respect for each of you has led me to the share both my thoughts, offer my voice of concern and challenge us to look at how we decide to vote differently.

I’ve been a student of leaders and their formation for over 30 years. All leaders are flawed… like each of us. All leaders have made mistakes. Like each of us.All leaders experience failures and have had moments when sin has impacted their lives and their choices. Also like each of us.

All political leaders stand for things and issues we may not ever support. It’s how politics works as power involves catering to various groups of influence. While this in no way excuses leaders who have abused their leadership and made decisions that have hurt countless others, or even have differing views… it is why there needs to be an additional standard in how we chose our “political” leaders… than just insisting they believe what we believe. A critical question in their selection might surprise you.

Does a leader have empathy? It is key to offering “moral leadership” to those they serve.

Can he or she… judge “right from wrong,” “good from bad” as they lead… by thinking for the needs of others and those they serve, and by seeing the world from others point of view? Or, must it always be about them? With all the headlines related to Trump’s (alleged) statements in 2018 about fallen soldiers being “suckers and losers” there may have been an even more disqualifying story in that same article by Jeffery Goldberg (a well respected reporter) of The Atlantic.

It occurred in a well documented exchange with Gen. John Kelly at Arlington Cemetery near the gravesite of his fallen son. While standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, Trump turned directly to his father (Gen. John Kelly) and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly initially believed that Trump was making reference to the selflessness of an America’s all-volunteer force. But later he (Kelly) came to realize that Trump simply does not understand “non-transactional life choices.”“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s close friends, a retired four-star general told me (Goldberg). The four star general went on to say: “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain has to be a sucker.” “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain.

That’s why he would make such a non-empathetic statement to a father at the grave site of his fallen Marine son, on Memorial Day (no less) in the cemetery of fallen heroes.Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29.

Empathy… a key to choosing a leader. Narcism… a key to disqualifying a leader.

If a leader is going to lead a diverse people like America, then he or she must have the capacity to see, think and feel the issues (even when they disagree) that impact the people they lead… and must have a capacity to see life from others point of view. They must be able to get out of their own world. Why? Because they will be called upon to do this very thing… deciding right from wrong for the “whole”… often meaning sacrificing personal notoriety, fame or gain.

All Presidents face key moments of decisions involving right-and-wrong (at the important moments)…it just goes with sitting in the #1 chair. The ability to get outside of themselves is absolutely critical. To those that can’t… it’s called narcissism… and it is the epitome of what I referred to as the absence of character to lead and provide “moral” leadership.

When a list like the following military Generals (listed below) declare this President “unfit” to lead… they are not making their decision based on agreement with ( or disagreement with) his or her religious views. Instead, they are saying that this leader lacks “moral leadership” and judgement… and therefore is “unfit” to offer what will be needed to make the determination of “right” and “wrong” as they lead this nation.

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, Marine Corps. Gen. John Kelly, Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Navy Adm. William McRaven, Navy Adm. James Stavridis, Army Gen. Raymond A. “Tony” Thomas, Air Force Gen. Mike Hayden, General Colin Powell.

If you want to hear from a veteran who speaks to the President’s inability to lead, then read the thoughts of Sully Sullenberger… a pilot who had to make a decision that jeopardized his own life in order to save others.

The Words of Sully Sullenberger…

“I am a veteran. I volunteered for military service during wartime. So did my father. His generation saved the world from fascism.In our travels, my wife Lorrie and I have always made it a point to visit military bases, hospitals and cemeteries, to meet and honor those who serve and have served our nation.I have long known that serving a cause greater than oneself is the highest calling, whether in the military or in civilian life.

I have always tried to be a voice of reason and to speak in a measured way.But this situation calls for a much more direct approach. It is time to call out egregious behavior for what it is.For the first time in American history, a president has repeatedly shown utter and vulgar contempt and disrespect for those who have served and died serving our country.

While I am not surprised, I am disgusted by the current occupant of the Oval Office. He has repeatedly and consistently shown himself to be completely unfit for and to have no respect for the office he holds.He took an oath of office that is similar to the one that each person takes who enters the U.S. Military. But he has completely failed to uphold his oath.Now we know why. He has admitted that he cannot comprehend the concept of service above self.

He cannot understand selflessness because he is selfish. He cannot conceive of courage because he is a coward. He cannot feel duty because he is disloyal. (NOTE: All are qualities of “amoral” leadership v. “moral leadership).

“We owe it not only to those who have served and sacrificed for our nation, but to ourselves and to succeeding generations to vote him out.” — Sully Sullenberger


Terry coaches and mentors breakthrough for entrepreneurial, risk-taking leaders. He has authored several books on leadership and pioneered a variety of leadership development resources and processes with his organization, Leader Breakthru. Terry also serves as adjunct faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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