Retired Air Force General Jerry White shared a leadership principle that he practiced over the course of his decorated career: wise leaders seldom express their personal opinions. In light of the post-election unrest in America, our political leaders could have benefited everyone by heeding this advice.
Dr. Jerry White is a retired Air Force general, President Emeritus of the Navigators, and a noted author. Once Jerry shared with me an essential lesson from his years of noteworthy leadership: the inherent danger of leaders expressing their personal opinions. He maintains that opining is a privilege that wise leaders use very sparingly in order to better serve all the people they represent.
Unfortunately, the presidential candidates and President and Mrs. Obama chose not to spare the public from their personal pontifications about the future potential leaders of the free world.
Since the election both President Obama and President-elect Trump have taken on a more presidential tone as they pledged a smooth transition of power. But it’s difficult to get the genie back in the bottle after a prolonged season of personal attacks hurled from both sides. Regardless of one’s political preferences, the gravitas of these leaders’ personal opinions expressed publicly has led to the post-election confusion and fear evidenced in protests across the nation.
Now that the nation has decided, both President Obama and President-elect Trump need to communicate consistent conciliatory messages in order to allay legitimate concerns raised during the race for the White House (it would also help for the media to follow suit). Like most presidents before them, they should keep their personal opinions to themselves if they want to serve all the people. General White’s message is a clarion call to leaders for such a time as this: wise leaders seldom opine for the good of the people they serve.