"The only real training for leadership is leadership." ‹ Anthony Jay
In the days leading up to our Civil War, America had very few military commanders or soldiers with real battle experience. The fighting in the war with Mexico had been decades prior. Many of the raw recruits could not even keep in step knowing their left foot from their right foot. Props had to be used. "Hay foot, straw foot, hay foot straw foot," the commanders would literally call out to keep them together.
Only when the war began did good leaders emerge and did strong fighters rise to the top.
For Janet Napolitano and the states' governors, there is no course to take on "How to be a Good Governor 101" or "Intro to Running a State as Big as Bolivia." One minute you are in the "we the people" camp and the next minute you lead five million of them. While it is a big jump, over time that on-the-job experience should eventually override the struggles and lead to some major victories.
The governor is likable enough. The state has seen substantial growth in the last few years. She doesn't make a lot of outrageous moves or have a history of crazy antics like the governor next door. She speaks with her own conviction about the future needs of the state and has a good idea where she would like Arizona to go ‹ in spite of a State House and Senate controlled by the opposing party.
But history heavily judges leaders on handling the hot-potato big issues. In the last month, two big issues have arisen that she can potentially help define her career: the English language education issue and the illegal immigration issue. In both cases, the governor has been firing blanks.
In the latter issue, the state is crying out for a comprehensive strategy to turn the tide on illegal immigration. Someone has to step up and do some consensus building to construct a united strategy.
The governor is in the best position to do just that. And consensus building is exactly what she should be perfecting by the end of her first term.
Instead of casting a broad vision for the future and bringing others along inside the tent, she has allowed Republicans to take the lead with weak legislation and placed herself in a reactive position. Her reliance on team government to financially support her vision is a necessity. But the focus has been diverted into a war of semantics. The truth is that responsibility starts at the top and works its way down.
Her press release on the veto issued Thursday was most telling. "Governor Napolitano continues her fight for federal dollars to support the National Guard border effort. This week, the governor sent letters to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, continuing to pressure them for a positive response Š "
What? We have hundreds of thousands of illegals entering our state each year and a violent battle with smugglers developing. Yet failure is justified with an "I sent letters, see my letters" response? That's incredible. It's the lack of strong leadership that has allowed the debate to slide into a trivial discussion about how to spend $10 million on the National Guard.
The watered-down vision and unity has not exactly inspired good state legislation. But what is surprising is the lack of urgency from the governor. Along the southern border, ABC News reported 778 attacks on border agents in 2005. The governor herself called for a state of emergency last year. Now she's backing off saying we're NOT going to send the National Guard to act in an enforcement role? That's absurd. To send the Guard down to the border to merely check baggage would be a waste.
Justifying her back-pedaling, the governor stated, "We are not at war with Mexico." Well, that's clear. What isn't clear is when this war between Napolitano and the Republicans is going to end. But this won't happen with mere rhetoric. Leadership is more about what happens when the cameras and spin doctors are off than on. It's more about seizing the moment than having a political seizure.
"[People] make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the moment to change things for the better." ‹ Harry S. Truman