It was recently announced that “House of Cards” will come back for a fourth season. There is no doubt that it is a fun show to watch and there are certainly aspects of that program that are rather true to life. Like “The West Wing” and “The Ides of March,” these shows have archetypes that most in politics can identify with personalities, responsibilities, leadership styles, moralities played out for our entertainment.
In his latest New York Times column, David Brooks explores the reality behind one of these political characteristics by posing the question, “Can you be a bad person but a strong leader?” Read the column.
Like Mr. Brooks, we have come to the same conclusion that the answer is a resounding “No.” Leadership requires strong character and an internal understanding of doing the right thing. It takes a willingness to build coalitions, develop friendships, exhibit loyalty, and bring people together to find solutions.
Ultimately, the Frank Underwood school of taking no prisoners and winning at all costs catches up with people. As Brooks explains, “They treat each relationship as a transaction and don’t generate loyalty. They lose any honest internal voice. After a while they can’t accurately perceive themselves or their situation. Sooner or later their Watergate will come.”
Some would say that too many politicians fall into this category. Brooks says that these people “become consumed with resentments.” We would also argue that they often become consumed with their own importance.
The truth is that we should hold our leaders to a higher standard. We should support and follow those who have both a drive to succeed and a heart for others. That is not to say they should be weak or without cunning. They must be willing to hold on to the bat when the situation arrives. However, their trustworthiness must be commensurate with their leadership.
As Brooks concludes, “But, historically, most effective leaders” like, say, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill “had a dual consciousness. They had an earnest, inner moral voice capable of radical self-awareness, rectitude and great compassion. They also had a pragmatic, canny outer voice. These two voices were in constant conversation, checking each other, probing for synthesis, wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove.” Read the column.