What is our next step?

Often when writing about politics, it feels like I’m simply writing about leadership.

A lot of what I think about leadership applies to politics or business or parenting or teaching or organizing or running a meeting or serving in your faith community.

For instance — I’ve talked about stewardship a lot. Stewardship is a good example of a concept that needs space in any leadership conversation. To be mindful enough to look at your current situation and understand the fleeting nature of your influence leads you to operate differently. In fact, I would say stewardship is the most important trait of a good leader.

So naturally when I see a political issue being widely scrutinized or passionately debated, I often ask: “Could this person lead more effectively here?” Or, “What does this debate reveal about the type of leader they would prefer?”

Locally this applies to taxes and roads. Toledo needs drastic help with infrastructure, but to “fix the damn streets” city leaders are calling to to increase the damn tax. However, as people debate the issue, it is the debate I find so interesting.

Mayor Hicks-Hudson is right to suggest that fixing the roads means increasing the tax. The argument that we must first scour the budget for any loose pennies and “trim the fat” before we increase revenue strikes me as very shortsighted. It isn’t either/or. We will always need leadership that can voice the immediate solution and the long term fix. Bigger than that though, this example about the roads reminds me of one of the central questions I believe all leaders (and politicians) should ask: What is our next step? A good leader is constantly gauging the current situation and asking themselves — what do I need to do to help the most people move forward.

It may seem basic, but let me contrast that with a few common starting points…

“In a perfect world, how would cities pay for roads?” or “What do I believe about road repair?” Those may lead to interesting discussions, but they won’t lead to a tangible way that allows for the most people to move forward.

The two key words of this better question is our & next.

What is our next step? We are taking this on together. This isn’t us vs. them with me up here and you down there. The leader is a citizen and the outcome affects them as well. The steward-leader realizes they must lead in this way, because it is how they would want the next person to lead. And after all — in leadership we are all simply keeping the seat warm.

The other crucial word is next. What is our next step? This isn’t the first time we have acted on this or any other issue.

We lead in a wake. The ripples come in and out and affect us all in different ways in different decades. So, what is the next step we can take that allows the most people to move forward?

Often I hear people sharing their thoughts as if they lived in a vacuum. Like the tea party and other “constitutionalists” and anyone who talks as if “the good ole days” were actually a place we could get back to. It is hardly an act of noble leadership to promise to make America anything again. Everyone is looking for national leaders to tell us what we will be next.

What is an amendment anyway? Other than the political definition my Apple Dictionary points to the agriculture meaning; “something that is added to soil in order to improve its texture or fertility.” I love that. To amend something is to make it more capable of bringing and supporting life.

When faced with an issue leaders don’t get a fresh black board. There are factors at play that must be considered. What we all need is a leader who can stand up and help us see a way that allows the most people to move forward.