The number one defining property of leaders
Defining property number one about leaders from leadership guru Michael Feiner (and my professor) is
They get the job done.
Nobody I know of whose paycheck doesn’t originate with fossil fuels or fundamentalist religion believes we are heading in a healthy direction for our environment. But we all respond to incentives and the incentives of our system — huge roads, low density suburbs, huge subsidies for fossil fuels, no costs to pollute, etc — promote pollution, producing CO2, and so on.
Governments write and enforce the laws forming most of these systems. As long as governments aren’t changing the systems to reflect what people want, they aren’t leading. As long as the media is reporting controversy — which sells copy — where there is overwhelming consensus (outside of people paid from fossil fuels), they aren’t leading either.
In fairness, who among us above a certain age, upon hearing global warming predictions, has not thought something like:
The temperature is going to rise by how much? Hmm… that doesn’t seem like that much. What does that mean to me? The sea level will rise how much? Holy cow, that affects me. Uh oh, but by when? 2100? How old will I be then? Oh, I’ll be dead by then. Whew, I dodged a bullet there!
I can tell you, no one in Congress, the White House, or the board room of any company will live to see this change. Yet they are deciding what will happen.
They are not shipping. That is, they aren’t creating the change an increasing majority wants. Calling them “leaders” misuses the term. I don’t blame them. Like anyone, they’re responding to their incentives, and they will die well before the sea levels rise. They expect their wealth will protect their children. It might, for a while.
Filling the leadership vacuum
Enter the kids in this Atlantic article, “An Inconvenient Lawsuit: Teenagers Take Global Warming to the Courts,” who are “suing the federal government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. … to do more to prevent the risks of climate change.”
I call this leadership. Their goals look far-fetched, but they will have an effect. If they don’t reach their goals, they’ll learn enough for the next group to get farther. And so on until they motivate the government to respond to their interests over those of fossil fuels.
What worked with clean air, clean water, and tobacco and may work with labeling food may work here. We have a nanny state today, coddling and over-protecting Exxon-Mobil and Monsanto. How about removing that coddling and creating some transparency?
Leading counterproductive “leaders”
My North Korea posts explore how government rulers often have incentives to polarize others and overstate threats, actions which increase the chance of war and certainly create fear and antipathy.
My experience in North Korea, experiencing how well people get along when they meet in contrast to how our “leaders” are trying to motivate us, showed me that if we want peace, waiting for government won’t do it. Too many in the government benefit too much from moving away from peace.
People have to lead their governments. Historically I see it happening this way more than in reverse, from ping-pong helping open relations with China to a letter from a ten-year-old girl helping thaw relations with Russia to Rosa Parks to too many examples to list. I mean, how long had people opposed slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation?
These students suing the government aren’t crazy. If anyone is, it’s anyone waiting for others with little incentive to act for them. The Atlantic article highlights the difference in motivations by age (global warming often polls as the least important issue for voters today, all over 18).
While the adults continue their argument, Loorz says kids his age are much more worried about climate change than many of their parents might imagine. Indeed, one British survey found that children between the ages of 11 and 14 worry more about climate change (74 percent) than about their homework (64 percent). “I used to play a lot of video games, and goof off, and get sent to the office at school,” he said. “But once I realized it was my generation that was going to be the first to really be affected by climate change, I made up my mind to do something about it.“