Where are the Leaders?

I am afraid that discovering the possible causes for the problems of bad leaders and self-serving politicians is only the first step.

Many times the topics for these periodic visits with you come from friends and associates who approach me with questions, or who ask for advice. I would like to thank Ernie Rojahn from the Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for asking me to help him answer a question that has apparently been troubling him for some time now. Ernie is the editor of the Pennsylvania Fireman magazine.

It was at the 108th Annual Convention of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman's Association (CVVFA) in Newark, DE, back in July that Ernie waylaid me on my way to the coffee pot at the back of the meeting room at the Aetna Hose, Hook, and Ladder Company Station 8. Let me paraphrase what he asked me. There were two questions which I believe are tied closely together. Where have all the leaders gone and why do we see so many self-serving people these days in positions of great responsibility?

As I see it, these are both critical problems in our fire service today. I agree with Ernie and have devoted a couple of weeks to pondering this leadership issue. Of course it doesn't hurt that I am facilitating a doctoral course in leadership at Cappella University for the summer quarter. So you see, I devote a great deal of time to thinking about leadership these days. I believe that I have been able to come to a couple of conclusions about what is right and what is wrong with the issue of leadership. They may be what Ernie is looking for. At least I hope they are suitable explanations for my buddy from Central Pennsylvania.

I am honored that people such as Ernie come to me asking for my assistance and my opinion. It seems to me that this indicates a certain level of trust between my associates and me. Some of these folks actually have accused me of having common sense. Think about that my friends: Harry Carter and common sense. No way. Say it ain't so. This is a difficult concept for many folks to believe in. You bet.

For those of you who have known me for a long time, using the words "Harry Carter" and "common sense" in the same sentence may seem a bit strange. I know I can act really goofy sometimes, but I am trying to get better. At least I think I am. Actually it is my good fortune to have a number of close friends whose responsibility it is to keep an eye on me when I start to say and do stupid things. As you might imagine, I keep these fine folks busy.

Let me tell you my friends that when I share these "common sense" messages with my charming wife, Jackie, I get the same response. She pauses for a moment, looks at me, and rolls her eyes. A smile then comes over her face and she laughs bit. She gets a kick out of comments like this. She can read me like the proverbial book. Let me share a little bit about my wife with you.

The former Jackie Miller is an eminently patient person. She has known me since we first dated in high school back in the 1960's. She was my high school sweetheart. So as you might imagine, she has seen my act more than once (that includes all of the stories and most of the jokes). Nonetheless, she has not left and still supports the work that I do. Heck, she is all for me going on another road trip next June. Hmm, I wonder. Oh well, support is support.

I love her dearly. Perhaps it is because of the manner in which she has guided me out of the darkness often associated with being a single man in our society. Perhaps it because of her support of my work over the decades. Maybe it is because she never let me settle for things when she knew there was a better way of doing things. And it might just be that way because it is completely impossible to BS the charming Mrs. Carter.

Think about it. My wife has made a career of rounding off the rough edges which I brought to our relationship. Let me be completely honest. I brought very few social graces to the table when I got married. These were taught to me one fact at a time over a period of 37 years. Jackie Carter may well be among the most patient women in the history of the world. She modeled these behaviors and it was my good fortune to be able to learn them over time.

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