Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Egos Crowd the Field

It seems like with each passing day someone new is announcing their intention to run for U.S. President. It's getting to the point that no name surprises me anymore. I won't be even a tad bit surprised if Barney (the dinosaur), Dr. Phil, Terrell Owens, Stephen Hawking, Newt Gingrich or Halle Berry announces their hat is going in the ring.

Why are there so many candidates so early? The main explanation making the rounds is that this will be the first election in a long, long time in which there will be no incumbent president OR vice president in the race. With no candidate with an automatic leg up, the field is clearly wide open.

For me, though, I think there's another explanation that goes hand-in-hand. We live in very egotistical times and running for president -- regardless of whether or not a candidate has snowball's chance in hell of winning a solitary vote in one primary -- is a big shot in the arm for a big ego.

Personally, I'm always suspicious of anyone who would WANT to be president. Such a person must think a great deal of themselves and, in my book, the best leaders are those who would prefer NOT to lead.

People who want to lead tend to crave power, status and wealth. People who have leadership foisted upon them (and are looking to remove it as quickly as possible) are almost always more humble and try to diffuse centralized power at all costs. The former try to lead with words, while the latter lead by example.

Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching has a lot to say about capable leadership. Of the many passages I could cite, here's Sixty-Six:
Why is the sea king of a hundred streams?
Because it lies below them.
Therefore it is the king of a hundred streams.

If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility.
If he would lead them, he must follow behind.
In this way, when the sage rules,
the people will not feel oppressed.
When he stands before them, they will not be harmed.
The whole world will support him and will not tire of him.

Because he does not compete,
He does not meet competition.
This really sums up the kind of woman or man I would like to have as my next president. Has such a person thrown their hat in the ring yet?

2 comments:

  1. The presidency as currently regarded can't be handled by someone without a large ego. In fact, as a people, Americans actually want someone with a large ego. The office has morphed from its conception as into the modern-day analog of the royalty that supposedly was left behind 232 years ago. An unassuming, competent candidate would last until the first Iowa straw poll.

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