Leadership is an essential part of the mental, physical, and emotional attributes that Americans expect to guide a president’s mission, absent from those who focus on political celebrity to the detriment of knowledge necessary once elected to office. The result is policy drift, such as that observed with Barack Obama’s priority for health care legislation over the unemployed and more explicitly, in his conflicting remarks about adopting a national mission.
“The time to embrace a clean energy future is now,” Obama said, in a desperate response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission.” But Obama’s mission for clean energy disagreed with a prior remark. “It’s time to make education America’s national mission.” And it’s all in stark contrast to a speech he gave about the economy. “Our first mission was to break the momentum of the deepest and most vicious recession.”
In the introduction to his best-selling book about the confusion between celebrities and leaders, author Daniel Boorstin said, “We expect our ‘national purpose’ to be clear and simple, something that gives direction to the lives of nearly two hundred million people.” Boorstin published his book in the same era that management expert Peter Drucker showed that emphasizing a purpose, or mission, is the responsibility of leaders in private, public, and government sectors alike.
Despite Obama’s obvious confusion about his mission, defining it is the first task of any individual aspiring to leadership. “We have to keep on challenging every aspect of government to rethink its core mission,” Obama said recently, adding more chaos to his incompetent administration. Believing that he is somehow above fulfilling a core mission, Obama and his weak leadership will continue to drift.
The president’s mission serves to animate the objectives of government with purpose, direction, and motivation; in a unanimous Declaration of Independence dated July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress stated that the purpose of government in the United States is to provide action for Americans “most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (New York: Random House, 1987).
Peter F. Drucker and Joseph A. Maciariello, Management, Revised Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 2008).
The Center for Army Leadership, Department of the Army, The US Army Leadership Field Manual 22-100 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004).
Stephen Hess, What Do We Do Now? A Workbook for the President-Elect (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2008).
Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President to the Nation on the BP Oil Spill,” The White House, June 15, 2010.
Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on Strengthening America’s Education System,” The White House, November 4, 2009.
Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on the Economy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas,” The White House, July 9, 2010.
Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President in Selection of Jack Lew to be Director of OMB,” The White House, July 13, 2010.