Leading From Behind
Copyright 2011 Susan Stamper Brown
Just before my early morning run this morning, a young boy, three-foot-nothing, wearing shorts and a helmet whizzed past me on his scooter, and then abruptly stopped and backed up – when he saw me stuff a twenty pound terrier into my backpack. As I threw the precious cargo over my shoulders, the little boy pushed his scooter into forward motion and offered his blatantly honest assessment (as kids often do) of the situation: “That’s weird.”
And it is – weird. To the average onlooker, hauling around a seemingly perfectly healthy canine in your backpack while making your other dog run beside you is weird unless, of course, they understood the extremely pampered pooch only appears to be capable. In reality, she’s a diabetic, whose glucose levels drop off the charts – with anything more than a casual walk. So, while my other dog and I do all the work and huff, pant and sweat our way through each hard and hilly mile, the “princess,” in all her alpha-dog glory, thinks she’s running the operation from behind – and wears herself out barking at cars, people and other dogs. Cars slow, windows roll, people smile and hands wave. We do all the work, and she gets all the attention, sitting upright and mighty from her backpack command post.
While I am in no way comparing our current president, Barack Obama, to my diabetic pet, it is not a stretch to draw a similar parallel to his leadership style – that one could find as entertaining – if we were discussing the local Boy Scout leader, rather than the leader of the free world.
Obama’s tendency to lead from behind has been magnified during the recent debt ceiling discussions, but that same tendency has been painfully obvious in his duties as commander in chief of our military.
I was perplexed with President Obama’s prolonged dithering back in 2009 after General Stanley McChrystal warned in a 66 page report that the war in Afghanistan might be lost unless additional troops were sent. Obama was labeled as “analytical,” and General Stanley McChrystal, a “renegade,” because it appeared he forced Obama’s hand. I called him a hero for lighting a fire under the behind of the one who leads from behind.
After McCrystal was fired after the release of the now infamous Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General,” McChrystal was exonerated when a Pentagon investigation into the matter failed to prove McChrystal guilty of any wrongdoing. Obama followed the lead of the Rolling Stone, rather than giving the benefit of the doubt to a man who devoted 33 years of his life to serving our country, and was known for consuming four hours of sleep, one meal and 7 miles, every day.
Albeit tense at times, you’d think Obama would lean on his generals’ wisdom and experience – because the closest Obama has personally come to combat is facing the First Lady after being caught on camera indulging in one of his frequent hot dog feasts. Most effective leaders understand the importance of surrounding themselves with people who make up for their weaknesses – and occasionally step aside (not behind) when necessary.
The President’s appointment of General David Petraeus seemed to be a step in this direction last year. Now it appears Obama has discarded the advice provided for a responsible withdrawal timeline from Afghanistan and thrust the weight of an accelerated timeline upon the backs of our military who serve at his discretion.
As I completed my run this morning, a man on a bicycle yelled in passing, “You’ve got it all wrong! Your dog should be pulling you!” I responded in kind with a nod and a smile while remembering the words of the little boy on a scooter.
Life truly is full of unexplainable weirdness – like dogs in backpacks and leaders seeking to lead from the back of the pack.