Some leaders inspire, others miss opportunities to lead | Inside Politics

Bob Roegner - Contributed
Bob Roegner
— image credit: Contributed

We expect a lot from our leaders. First and foremost, we expect them to lead, rather than always play it safe.

But leadership has many faces and styles, and it isn’t just Democratic or Republican. True leadership doesn’t always mean everyone agrees with the direction, decision or even the point of view. Leadership can also be viewed in different angles and prisms, depending on our own political leanings. Frequently, there is a political gain, other times it is thought to be simply the right thing to do. Usually it involves risk.

Rarely have we seen a period that provided so many contrasting points of view on leadership as we have in the last few weeks. From applause to disappointment to condemnation, each example has been greeted in different ways.

Leadership can be bold and dramatic, if unexpected, such as Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement that he would suspend executions while he was governor. The issue was far from the center of current political or policy debate.

But Inslee felt strongly about the issue. Although the immediate impact on him may be minimal, he also knew going public could be a political problem for legislators from his party that are up for election this year. Opposing Republicans immediately took him to task and discussed introducing legislation to curb his authority. Families of victims criticized him. It will be a major issue in his next election.

And leadership can be viewed with different perceptions. Were conservative Republican state Sen. Don Benton, Pam Roach and Janea Holmquist leading when they announced they would no longer vote with their party on all matters, just to maintain unity, because they disagreed with some of the decisions of a more moderate leadership? Or were they throwing the upper chamber in to disarray by putting their own views ahead of the common good?

Speaker of the House of the Representatives John Boehner certainly exercised leadership, though possibly to his detriment, by his decision to defy members of the Tea Party and work with Democrats to lift the debt ceiling until after the election. Now some want to strip him of the speakership. President Barack Obama also was showing leadership, and maybe echoing Boehner, when he said if the Congress didn’t start acting on his proposals, he would use executive directives to avoid gridlock where he could to advance his agenda.

In his search for a community-unifying answer, Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell demonstrated leadership when he appointed a panel to look at the Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC) and provide objective, substantive ideas. Some Ferrell supporters voted for the new mayor because he said the PACC would take resources from more important needs. They want him to simply put a stop to it. But being a candidate running for office, and actually  governing a divided city, can be two different things.

Former school board President Danny Peterson exhibited leadership and selflessness when he acknowledged family and job constraints were more than he expected and volunteered to turn the leadership of the board over to someone else.

After a year of significant community discord over several board decisions, two new board members, and now a third board president in just a few months, stability and cooperation between the board members was desperately needed.

In what could have become an even more impressive act of leadership by blending the old and new board members and signaling a new harmony by burying some hard feelings, Peterson nominated Claire Wilson.

Peterson replaced Wilson in a palace coup a few months ago. But then Peterson voted against Wilson and for new board member Carol Gregory, who was elected president of the board. Had he voted the other way, it may have ended in a tie vote since one member was absent.

But skilled, mature leadership behind the scenes by all the board members could have presented a completely different picture of the board than the one we are left with. Leadership is a trait you learn by watching others rise to the occasion.

Much of what we witnessed these past few weeks was true leadership, and you should appreciate it even if you disagree with some of it. We learned a lot about our leaders and who they are.

Sometimes they inspire us, sometimes they disappoint us and sometimes they miss an opportunity to lead.

Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn: bjroegner@comcast.net.


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