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Last week President Trump and his administration suffered a significant loss when they had to pull back their answer to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). Obviously, repealing and replacing “Obamacare” was one of President Trump’s core campaign promises, as it was for a significant number of Republican Senators and Representatives. And while it is ultimately the American people who will suffer if our nation’s leaders are not able to improve on the shortcomings of the ACA, there are a handful of core leadership lessons we can benefit from upon analyzing what happened.
Winston Churchill said, “The empires of the future are empires of the mind.” Like many successful military and business leaders throughout the ages, Churchill knew that every desired goal starts with an exciting vision. True leaders project into the future and imagine what that ideal future will look like. A big question
a good leader should constantly ask is, “How do we get where we want to go from where we are today?”
As a leader, it is important to develop your vision. It does not matter if you are the president of the United States, a corporate CEO, a mid-level manager, or just starting your first business. This process begins with being able to clearly articulate your vision and the steps needed to achieve it. Those steps mean setting realistic, demanding goals, and then going after them relentlessly. A wise leader understands this to mean that he or she will benefit from the help of other talented men and women who are equally committed and engaged.
Health care is quite complicated, and a sustainable replacement that provides holistic coverage for all Americans at an affordable price will require extensive work. That being said, President Trump stated a number of times that he would replace the ACA immediately and that it would be very easy. That promise was clearly not grounded in reality – a true vision is more than sound bites, and naturally requires an intimate understanding of the process required of that vision. Take the time to really think about what you want to achieve and how you want to go about it. If you work for yourself, you can make this vision the foundation of your business. If you are in a corporate structure, see how your vision dovetails with the company’s goals. Remaining focused on your vision and continuing to put forth the effort to reach it—one step at a time—is what separates life’s great achievers from those who merely dream, but never act.
As we all saw, President Trump and Speaker Ryan could not get the different Republican coalitions within the House to agree on significant aspects of the proposed American Health Care Act. Also, it appears that at no point did the Trump Administration reach out to the Democrats in Congress for their input on the bill (obviously none of them supported it). However, one of his first comments was to blame the defeat on Democrats.
President Harry Truman famously had a plaque on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.” He knew that, as president of the United States, any decision by his administration was his responsibility. It did not matter if the secretary of state insulted a foreign dignitary and started a war. It would ultimately be Harry’s responsibility. President Truman understood this facet of leadership. Right or wrong, whatever happens under your watch is your responsibility.
You can really hurt yourself in the eyes of your superiors and staff if you try to hide your mistakes. It negatively influences the entire trust paradigm. When you start losing the trust of those above and below you, it will greatly affect your ability to lead. It is especially hard when a person adopts the attitude that a mistake is always someone else’s fault. Those above you will have a negative impression of your ability based purely on your passing the buck. And those below you will not feel that you have their back, especially if you constantly blame them when things go wrong.
Chuck Todd on the March 26, 2017 edition of Meet the Press identified that significant pieces of legislation take time and effort. As he said, “Obamacare, from start to finish, was 187 legislative days. Medicare Part D, the big Bush initiative, 166. Welfare reform was 56. ’86 tax reform was 323 days. From start to finish on [President Trump’s] health care [bill] it was 17 days.” Because health care is so complicated, especially in a system like ours, it was unrealistic to expect the disparate groups to come together and pass landmark legislation like this so quickly. And in this case, a number of significant associations and organizations had forecasted their opposition to President Trump’s bill, and this support was sorely needed. Interest groups (the AARP, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals), doctors’ and nurses’ groups (the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons), conservative organizations (Heritage Action, Cato Institute, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots), and progressive organizations (MoveOn.org, Center for American Progress, American Bridge) together represent tens of millions of constituents and all publicly opposed this legislation.
Many recognize that Congress has become more divided each year, and in some situations one party is characterized as weak if it negotiates and compromises with the other. However, every success in life is based on relationships, and our country cannot improve and provide for its citizens if there is no sense of teamwork. In fact, one of the prime responsibilities of any leader is create a culture of collaboration and promote teamwork wherever possible.
In the Marines, this teamwork concept starts from the smallest patrol up to the entire body of the Corps. We drill on doing our job well, and we expect the Marine next to us to be equally proficient in his responsibility. The enlisted Marines know that virtually every officer has gone through the demanding Officer Candidates School, and the officers know how challenging the enlisted boot camp is—this very fact helps establish the trust necessary for teamwork. Professional proficiency also breeds trust because each and every Marine knows that if they do not do their job to the best of their ability, they will be letting their comrades down. Nowhere is this stressed more than in combat, where unsatisfactory performance can result in the most final of results. Working hard for those around you promotes a very dynamic relationship where the sum is stronger than all of the parts. Fostering teamwork is what a leader strives to do.
We all make mistakes, and rarely in life do things turn out exactly as we expect. Whatever the reason, it is a good idea to prepare yourself in advance for how to handle mistakes when they crop up. Any gaffe is going to have its own unique ramifications, but there are two things you should set your mind to do when they occur. One, own up to the mistake. Two, learn from it. That is what leadership is all about.
As a leadership principle, the importance of integrity cannot be overstated. We know that those who perform at high levels are very clear about what they believe in. Those who perform at an average level are blurred as to their beliefs. The high performers will not compromise their values and principles. Others will compromise for […]
I am taking a 7-month certificate course right now to learn how to be a Life Coach (my niche is going to help people going through some sort of transition), and during our last class we learned a basic centering technique. This practice is designed to help you tune into your body and use deep […]
In 1624, English poet John Donne wrote that “no man is an island.” He was exactly right, and to succeed in any aspect of life, we need help from others around us. This is true from not only a financial perspective, but also emotional, personal and spiritual. Connecting and contributing to our community is essential […]
Over the last five years, there has been a very positive trend across corporate America where more and more businesses have committed to hiring veterans and their spouses. Robust initiatives such as Hiring Our Heroes and Hire Heroes USA have helped place hundreds of thousands of veterans and coordinated the veteran hiring efforts of hundreds […]
A couple of days ago I had a quick layover at a busy airport. At the food court I bought a soda and started heading over to my connecting gate. As I stepped past the tables and chairs for those eating, I noticed a veteran. He was probably in his mid-60’s and had a ball […]
Earlier this year, I applied for and was accepted into the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program, a 6-month program hosted by the presidential libraries of President H.W. Bush, President W. Bush, President Clinton and President Johnson. Two months in, I have already learned a ton about leadership and feel very fortunate to be part of this inspirational […]
I wouldn’t say that NWA was my favorite group in the late 80’s and 90’s, but I certainly listened to my fair share of them. There is no doubt that the members collectively and individually had a huge effect on the music industry, and to overall American society to a certain extent. So I recently […]
I was recently fortunate enough to be accepted into the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program, which is sponsored by the presidential libraries of Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson. Needless to say, our classes our taught by some heavy hitters, the guest speakers are deep thinkers and leaders […]
Henry Ford visualized a car every family could afford. Steve Jobs dreamed of putting a computer in the hands of everyday people. General Dwight Eisenhower envisioned using not only military strength but economic aid, diplomacy and information to stabilize fragile nations, a concept that is particularly important 70 years later. What is your vision, and […]
You are stronger than you think you are. In the Marine Corps, they train us very hard to be tough, efficient and extremely resilient. Physical and mental fitness is a part of everything we do. And although I felt like I was in good shape when I started Officer Candidate School, I lost 20 pounds […]
PenFed has 1,500 employees, and we had the opportunity to talk with 400 of them while we were in Omaha. And I think if more companies or government agencies did what James did, employees would be much happier in the workplace and feel more connected at work. As I told James, due to the nature […]
Justin Constantine spent 15 years as an attorney with the Marine Corps, US Department of Justice, Capitol Hill and the FBI. He now runs his own business as an inspirational speaker and leadership advisor. Justin suffered a traumatic injury when he was shot in the head in Iraq by an enemy sniper, and bases his posts here on his experiences as a Marine officer, his very fortunate recovery, and his involvement in the world of private business.