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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Concerning moral leadership

Recently there has been an almost incessant call for President Bush to demonstrate moral leadership in relation to the festivities of the inauguration. According to some quarters, President Bush's apparent extravagance in the pomp and festivities of the inauguration has been suggested to be a sorry demonstration of the lack of moral leadership in a time of grave need, tragedy and suffering both within this country and globally. More urgent matters evidently require the President to set an example of frugality, generosity and courage.

Is moral leadership required as an essential quality of a leader? Are leaders required to exhibit moral leadership in order to qualify as leaders? In other words, if a leader were to fail to demonstrate moral leadership when the opportunity to do so present itself, has that leader relinquished his or her position as leader? What is moral leadership?

Some suggest the need for modeling of moral character and qualities, especially in circumstances that warrant such a demonstration. For example, in the recent debate of the purportedly frivolous pomp and fanfare of the festivities of the inauguration, critics point to the extravagant price tag of the affair in light of the President's call for Americans not only to tighten their belt but also to give generously to the needs around the world, especially in light of the tragedies surrounding the recent earthquake and tsunamis in Asia.

Some have suggested that the obstinacy and apparent arrogance of the President and his office to not only go ahead with the celebrations but to not acknowledge the need to scale down nor to funnel some of the funds to benefit the victims of the tragedies are indication of the lack of moral leadership from Bush. This is especially so, when two former presidents are leading an effort for the rest of America to give and give generously, yet it appears that the President is sparing no expense to throw parties and celebrate unabashedly the inauguration of his second term. Others question his arrogance for claiming a mandate when it isn't clear that there is one.

If such are examples of moral deficiency in Bush's character, does that make him a poorer leader, and perhaps even make him disqualified as a leader in character, although he maintains the position of one?

If a leader is someone who by position, title or function is placed in front of a group of people, does he or she also have the responsibility to demonstrate morally that he or she deserves to be followed by virtue of having the character of one who is morally excellent? In other words, is moral leadership more about the actions and character of the leader than about his words and statements? If a group of people by choice or by function has accorded this person the right and power to lead that group, is the leader required to be an example--a model--for the group in more ways than one?