What it takes to be a leader



I wrote this piece in 2018, yet the reflections are still relevant. I long for peace - in my mind, my heart, and my country. There's a long road ahead - a very long road - and we might not see significant change in our lifetimes, but I'm willing to rally for love and compassion for the sake of my children and my children's children. - Elizabeth


Like many of you who have ever been part of, say, a parent-teacher organization or any other volunteer group, I’ve been experiencing a deja vu over the last year watching this presidential administration go to town on America. A person no one ever thought would come to power has done just that, and, cringing with fearful trepidation, you watch as the first big event is planned.


This new leader rallies contacts, brings in a variety of drama and negativity and concludes that doing it a particular way is best for the collective group. The day of the event arrives and as chaos ensues, you take a moment to observe what you suspected all along — that this type of single-minded leadership would not flourish.


“I-told-you-sos” run rampant through your mind and just before you start to get really petty and gossip about the situation, you stop. The people at the event are your people: your family, friends, colleagues and sweet children. You can’t sit idly by watching this event be run into the ground for lack of solid leadership.


You step in, because allowing this event to collapse and fail is not an option for you — you’re deeply rooted into the larger community.


Dear reader, I feel called to serve my community by running for office. And I’m not the only one: since the last presidential election, over 15,000 women have contacted nonpartisan support organization She Should Run, ostensibly to learn about entering politics themselves. And whether you love or hate our current president, surely we can agree that he does challenge our ideas of who can and cannot get elected.


Indeed.


Yet perhaps I lack the qualifications to be the president of the United States. I have no military background nor time already spent in politics. The United States Constitution Article II states the requirements for leadership of this great country:


“The president must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, be at least 35 years old and have been a resident of the United States for 14 years.”


Well, I’m a natural-born citizen who’s celebrated her 40th birthday in 2017 and has, thus, resided in the United States for far more than 14 years. Done. I can be president. Heck, in 1872, Victoria Woodhull tried to run for president months shy of her 35th birthday. Not even which is spelled out in the constitution stopped her from trying.


I remembered a bumper sticker I saw that plainly said amid red and blue stars:


“Any functioning adult — 2020.”


Fair enough. Yet being the leader of the most powerful nation cannot be left to just anyone. There are certain characteristics that this individual needs to embody, practice and live. So I made a list of all the elements I expect from my president.


At the top of my list was compassion, followed by a keen listening ear, a humble personality and an ability to negotiate and be respectful of all opinions and beliefs. My candidate will have a boldness that he/she is willing to stand up to injustices of the world and an overall unbiased mission to protect the people of our country. All the people. I added two things to my list as “preferred but not necessarily a deal breaker if you don’t meet the following:”


A parent with a sense of humor.


I looked to social media to see what others want in a leader, too. The response online was similar, calling for compassion at the top of most of the respondent’s lists:


“Integrity, compassion, strength, humanity, ability to build consensus (a pipe dream in today’s America), empathy, moral compass and any other qualities she had would be great, too.”


“Knowledge of constitutional law and its workings, integrity, compassion and honesty.”


“Empathy, great capacity for rational thought in decision-making, strong communication skills.”


“Vision, consistency and determination.”


“Authenticity, compassion and healthy (mental, physical, spiritual).”


If our current president of the United States never held a political office prior to his current term, why would I need to in order to run? Can a grassroots campaign be rallied behind a woman, wife and mother who stands for integrity and compassion? A citizen who daily negotiates, contributes to her community, rallies behind small business and who is not ashamed to share she believes in a higher power that loves all people — no matter what?


Am I so different from other women in our nation’s history like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who have, lacking formal qualifications or even the qualification of being male, made a difference nonetheless, even organizing person-by person?