A Leadership Reminder: All Eyes on U.S.
Yesterday as I woke up to learn about the horrible events in Brussels, I realized that my journeys to Europe have been shockingly close to terrorist attacks. I just flew through the Brussels airport three weeks ago. This past November, I was in Berlin when the Paris attacks happened. Even in 2005, after returning from a month long backpacking trip to Europe with my sister, I turned on NPR to learn about the London attacks, blocks from where I had just been.
Americans are rocked by these stories around the globe, whether in Europe, Turkey, India, Iraq, or Syria, but they are so constant it is easy to become numb and not feel a connection to the reality that actual people have been killed or injured - lives that will never be the same. But this is always the case until things impact you personally. In the United States, by and large, we are removed from the realities of war. This causes us to become so consumed by more selfish issues that we largely ignore the day-to-day lives of people around the globe.
Conversely much of the world is watching us and paying close attention. I was reminded about the central focus on America on my recent visit to Prague. I was invited by the U.S. Embassy there to talk about women’s leadership and the American political process. I was visiting the Czech Republic during the week of Super Tuesday and the Embassy asked me to speak about our political process at various universities, as well as on Czech television and radio.
Throughout my trip I was struck by the knowledge and curiosity the Czech people have about American politics, the players, and the issues. They wanted to hear all about Donald Trump, asked questions about obscure Members of Congress, and even asked about the accuracy of the television show House of Cards. They are large consumers of American culture and American politics. We are exporting our values and we know little about them. We are a self-absorbed nation; I think that comes at a price.
Americans should know and realize that many people in the world feel like the person who we elect as our next president feels like their next president too. We are the most powerful country in the world and we need to act like a leader. But what kind of leadership and values are we portraying to the world?
In my graduate school leadership studies, we learned about many different kinds of leadership styles. Among my favorite “types” are transformative leadership and servant leadership. Core to these styles is an element of self-awareness. Self-awareness is realizing our own motivations and how our actions impact others. It reminds us to constantly check our actions to understand why we do things and what the consequences are.
I believe the American public and our political system need a big dose of self-awareness. Let’s be aware that our leadership matters, that the world is watching our every move, and that the leadership we export impacts not just Americans, but much of the world too.