Troubling Times

     The warning signs that our society is experiencing a very real personal leadership crisis are everywhere. You only need to turn on the TV, tune into a radio program, click on the Internet, or pick up any periodical to find that story after story recounts a sad, sordid tale of broken promises, plundered pensions, and selfish motives by many of those entrusted to positions of authority and responsibility. In once high-flying companies such as Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom, and Tyco, it was the leaders’ apathy, inaction, and lack of accountability that directly led to millions of innocent people being negatively affected, forever. 

     Of course, lapses in leadership are not limited to just the business world. For example, the inexcusable abuses at the Iraqi military prison in Abu Ghraib and the seemingly endless string of politicians facing ethical and moral charges continue to shake our confidence in leaders at every level. Perhaps it should be no surprise then that almost 80 percent of respondents in a recent Gallup poll think the moral values of our nation are getting worse instead of better. And according to a recent survey by Harvard University, a majority of Americans confirm we suffer from a serious leadership crisis in America. Perhaps more importantly, even more believe the United States will decline as a nation without better leaders.

     Sadly, it seems as though mediocrity has become the new norm as it relates to how many of us think about leadership. Instead of the term leader being synonymous with someone who strives to use their influence to build value into their surroundings, it is more likely we associate it with someone doing whatever it takes just to keep the routine going. Whereas leadership was once a term that engendered inspiration, now it frequently invokes a sense of desperation as we collectively witness our nation’s infrastructure crumble, medical costs skyrocket, deficits soar, school system’s slip, marriages fizzle, and poverty, crime, hunger, homelessness, drug use, and a host of other challenges keep many citizen’s struggling to survive and unable to thrive.

     What all this confirms is that we don’t just have a leadership crisis in America. Rather, in the words of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, what we are experiencing is nothing short of an all-out leadership “emergency.”

     And we know it.

     But thankfully, it doesn’t have to stay this way. We can each choose, instead, to adopt a broader view of our potential role in the world—one that affirms the reality we cannot continue to expect to effectively tackle today’s challenges by pursuing one-size-fits-all solutions or by relying on “expert” opinions. Navigating ourselves beyond the present mess we’re in can only begin if each of us first opens ourselves to thinking differently about what it really means to be a leader.

Copyright © 2012 - All Rights Reserved
John Michel
experienced leader, humanitarian, visioneer, and renown status quo buster,
is the author of the ground breaking book:
Mediocre Me: How Saying No to the Status Quo will Propel you from Ordinary to Extraordinary
Check out his blog at or drop him a note at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.