In a national crisis, leaders at each level of government are being challenged and put to the test. Each of these leaders is dealing with similar challenges, including uncertainty, limited resources, and very likely a lack of sleep. This set of common challenges helps to give us a look at each of their leadership styles in somewhat of a controlled setting to determine who is doing a superlative job and who isn't measuring up. We see certain leaders rise to prominence and political stardom as the nation embraces them as the de facto leaders of the United States. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom are two leaders that come to mind as rising stars. We are also seeing other prominent leaders display pettiness, bravado, and character traits that are anything but traditional characteristics of an effective leader.
Failure of Presidential Leadership
In a global crisis, the President has traditionally been looked to as the public official that instills confidence, implements sound policy, and shows courage and vigor to lead the nation through the crisis. During turbulent times, leaders' words matter and have a tremendous impact. The speech that comes to mind when I think of instilling confidence during times of crisis is Winston Churchill's "we shall fight on the beaches" speech given shortly after the disaster at Dunkirk that almost destroyed the entire British Army.
"We shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." These encouraging words provided every Englishman and woman the confidence and assurance that the British people would prevail and triumph over Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich. This confidence and encouragement are what people need from their leaders during times of crisis. Not the false and misleading statements we have heard from Donald Trump, such as "it's going to be fine," "we have it under control," and "anyone that wants a test can get a test." What we have seen from our current President is far from encouraging and assuring. For the most part, his addresses to the nation have been full of lies, misinformation, and a continued airing of petty feuds and childish insults that are less than could be considered stately.
The Presidential press conferences conducted by Donald Trump consist of attacks on political opponents, discrediting the media covering him as fake news, making insulting and degrading remarks about Governors, deflecting responsibility to others, and relaying misinformation to the public regarding potential cures. His promotion of unproven treatments and drugs (such as ingesting disinfectant or taking drugs not approved for treating COVID-19) has led to actual deaths.
I'm not sure it's by choice or by design, but it's clear that there is no leadership coming from the White House, and the White House has abdicated responsibility for this Global Pandemic to the Governors of each state. With the current occupant in the White House, the buck certainly doesn't stop with him. No, he's made it clear. It's not his responsibility.
Abdicating responsibility and blaming others is not the type of leadership required during a crisis. Because of this leadership void at various levels of government, we are seeing leaders emerge from all levels of government to fill these voids.
Leadership Doesn't Equate to Height of Political Office
It's imperative to note that the quality of leadership doesn't equate to the level of government of our elected officials. For instance, in Dallas County, we have seen exemplary leadership from every level of government, including our County Judge, Clay Jenkins. Just because you are a Governor or even President, that is no guarantee that you have the executive skills required to lead and communicate effectively during times of crisis. Time and time again, the President has fallen short of providing effective leadership, and he has left a leadership void that is now being filled by local and state leaders.
The Value of Local Leadership
In the DFW metroplex, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has become the voice of reason and calm in terms of elected leaders. His press conferences are science-based and do an exemplary job of communicating necessary and actionable information and guidelines for citizens to follow. His focus on the challenges at hand and providing specific guidance is refreshing when compared to the impromptu comments and misinformation coming from Presidential press conferences. Judge Jenkins doesn't use his press conferences to belittle the media or attack political opponents. No, with Judge Jenkins, the buck stops with him, and he takes responsibility where appropriate.
During this pandemic, the elected officials making many meaningful life and death decisions are our County judges, Mayors, and municipal leaders, not the federal government, and not Donald Trump. The nation is seeing the worst examples of leadership coming from the White House. In Dallas, we are fortunate to have a front seat to the exemplary leadership of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins as he guides us through this mess that is being made worse by our current President.
Maybe one day, we will see the leadership qualities of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins put to use in a higher capacity. After all, we are in dire need of new leadership in the Governor's mansion and in Washington, D.C. Whatever is next for Judge Jenkins, one thing can be sure, America needs and deserves more leaders like Clay Jenkins and fewer like Donald Trump.
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