A Facebook friend, Willie Preston has coined a phrase that seems to be gaining resonance every week. Mr. Preston has adopted and promoted the mantra “We Need a New Breed of Leadership!” Any marketing professor would give him an A because the slogan is direct, easy to remember and concise.The Preston mantra is being adopted across generational lines with Boomers and Millennials echoing it. One can easily infer that the cry for new leadership is an illusive message to Black folks. Part of that new breed call is a clarion message about politics aimed directly at African American office holders.
The choruses of Amens surrounding Mr. Preston’s call is nearly deafening (if such a situation can exist in social media). Countless people maintain they are extremely disappointed with the protracted political careers of both Black U.S., Representatives from Illinois – Bobby Rush and Danny Davis. The slam against both men is about their longevity, not any policy issue disagreements. Collectively, they have been in office 45 years. For the astute political observer, that seniority carries clout. How the holder of said clout chooses to use it is another story.
Somewhere along the line the wires between political influence and leadership got crossed. Politicians can bring leadership to their respective legislative or executive branches. However, when it is about the leadership of the people, the general public, that is where people seem to get confused. When we look through history, only an infinitesimal number of Black elected officials have been leaders. The leadership potential of anyone elected to office is severely constrained by the whims and interests of those serving with that elected official.The Black people who have had the greatest impacts on this nation stepped out and chose to lead. They didn’t ask to be anointed or for permission, they simply led.
Undoubtedly, new leadership is needed in so many areas–in and outside of government. Chicago continues to face an affordable housing crisis which is primarily given lip service by those who are supposed make affordable housing happen. Both the South Side and West Side are in need of sustained economic development work. Who is putting their leadership shoulder to the wheel of infrastructure improvement in those same parts of the city just mentioned? I don’t believe we need to elect anyone for education reform. It was community people and organizations more so that elected officials who moved the notion of an elected Chicago school board this far in Springfield. The reality is there are enough issues and problems in the city begging for a resolution that every resident could take one, resolve it, and there would still be some left over, Leaders don’t appear during an election cycle and retreat into oblivion after losing,
Maybe before we get a new breed of leadership, we should define what is being led.