Servant Leadership And The Poor

Lately I have been thinking about the topic of leadership. Everywhere I turn I hear the same comments about how bad leadership is in our companies and political scene. Sometimes I think I am part of the problem, and other times I feel that I have the solution. This may be how all of us feel, and I don’t think anyone who is in leadership thinks they are a bad leader.

I have experienced two really bad leaders in my career, one was female and one male, but their badness was consistent. Lousy communication and they were doing the job for their own benefit, not the benefit of the organization and the people.  I am convinced that servant leadership is the best leadership.

Albert Brooks in his article in this morning’s WSJ does not use the term Servant Leadership, but by describing how President Obama neglects the poor he is demonstrating the principle of Servant Leadership. President Obama has given several economic speeches over the last few weeks, arguing that he is the champion of the middle class, however with yesterday reported GDP performance, and the census bureau data for 2006-2011 we see the affects of an elite class making sure they retain their economic opportunities at the expense of the less fortunate.

From 2006-2011 real income for the top 20% of our country fell by about 5%, but according to Brooks, rose 2% in 2010-2011. Income for the bottom quintile fell by 11%, but did not improve in 2010-2011.  The unemployment numbers for the those that earn between $40,000 and $60,000 were at 7.8%, while those earning less than $20,000 had an unemployment rate of 24.4%; big difference for those on the lower end of the economic scale. “In other words, high-income households were at or above full employment.” Brooks also states, “Meanwhile, the lowest income households looked at an employment landscape resembling the worst years of the Great Depression.”

My concern is not whether Obama cares about the poor, because I think that all of our politicians are only looking out for their own welfare and not the welfare of the people, but what I am concerned with is how our economic system is quickly loosing its ability to provide social mobility for our citizens. I agree with Brooks when he says, “the key to increasing opportunity is simple: real jobs for adults and good education for children.”

The question is how to do this? First, we need to recognize what we are currently doing is not working. “According to research from the Pew Charitable Trusts published in 2009, four out of five children whose parents are in the top income quintile enroll in college, and 53% finish.  Despite Pell Grants, and other aid, only one in three children from the bottom quintile go to college – and just 11% graduate.” There are many social reasons for this, but with rising education costs we need to improve this situation or the gap between the haves and have-nots will continue to increase until all our homes will have brick walls around them with broken glass embedded in the top of the wall so people cannot climb over and steal our stuff.

We need leaders who are visionaries and can create an economic system that fosters innovation and opportunity for those who want it. Giving people money will not do it; all that will do is continue to foster a resentful, lazy culture that is dependent on large government subsidies. But giving people opportunity to take initiative through systems that promote educational and entrepreneurial success, we may be able to restore the social mobility we once enjoyed. It will take servant leaders to accomplish this; ones that are willing to give up a little of their own time and money to help others.

And that is my thought for the day!



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