In evaluating people’s suitability for positions of leadership in politics, government, diplomacy, business, non-profit organizations, education, and religion, I believe that certain qualities are essential for great leadership. Talent, knowledge of one’s field and skill in fulfilling one’s vision are critically important, of course, but so too are a leader’s moral qualities because the leader affects and influences the moral character of a community and the people who identify with that community.
Great leaders are honest, respect truth, have a love for humanity, and are inspired by the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, justice, compassion, and peace.
Great leaders are humble, empathetic and work on behalf of the dignity of every human being in their immediate orbit of authority and on behalf of humanity as a whole.
Great leaders are guided by a sacred commitment to improve the human condition. They are courageous in speaking truth to power regardless of consequences to themselves.
Great leaders are studious, thoughtful, self-reflective, and self-critical. They are idealistic and pragmatic in pursuit of their goals. They are open to compromise for the sake of progress and furthering the common good even as they hold onto their larger vision and maintain their idealism.
Great leaders are hopeful and positive. They appeal to the best in the human condition in word and deed. They are trustworthy and say what they mean and mean what they say. They change positions when new information and circumstances require it. They are not slaves to their ideas or ideology. They are forward-looking and flexible. They are tough and unflappable when their fundamental principles are threatened.
By all measures, Donald Trump fails as a great leader. Though the others in the race for President, Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, are imperfect (indeed – we all are), on a continuum Trump is the quintessential ‘anti-leader’ and not even close in his qualifications and character for the presidency in comparison with the other two candidates.
Though I do not agree on most policy matters with Republican leaders, I respect the Republican Party as a legitimate option for America. In our two-party system, the country is better off when ideas conflict and our leaders are able to debate thoughtfully those differences and then find common ground and move forward on behalf of nurturing a more compassionate, just and fair country.
I respect those Republicans who hold to their principles. In this light, I have been deeply disappointed by Republican leaders who only weeks ago publicly called Trump a fraud, bigot, corrupt, and dangerous, and a candidate who appeals habitually to the very worst in the human condition, but who have decided for partisan reasons to put the interests of this new party of Trump over the best interests of the country and endorse him for President.
I know some Republicans who have decided not to vote for President nor to contribute to Trump’s campaign because they find him unqualified for that high office and morally detestable, and instead support down-ticket Republican candidates. I respect them for their integrity and principled opposition to Trump. I have no respect for the hypocrisy of those who have now endorsed Trump despite their recent charges about his character and leadership deficiencies.
That being said, I am comforted to have read this week in a cover story in the Sunday New York Times (“Donor’s Aversion to Trump…”, May 22, p. 18) a statement by a leading Republican donor, Michael K. Vlock of Connecticut, who will not vote for or support Trump because of his belief that Trump is a “dangerous…ignorant, amoral, dishonest and manipulative, misogynistic, philandering, hyper-litigious, isolationist, protectionist blowhard.”
I would hope that more Republicans come to the same position as Mr. Vlock. Unfortunately, that is proving not to be the case.
In my next blog, I will post a number of statements from Jewish tradition and other sources that focus on what good leadership requires. It will be evident that Trump violates them in word and deed.
Note: The views I have expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of my synagogue or any other organization.