Everyday Leaders Face HUGE Problems


On the Everyday Leadership radio show on Saturday, “Doug from Mason,” couldn’t remember who said it, but he loved the line that the reason America is great is because of the strength of the American people.  Of course, our capitalism and our democracy both derive their strength from one fundamental source: freedom.  Any individual can play!  And individual action leads to innovation and to communication and collaboration.  “Everyday Leadership” and “Reading for Leading” are celebrations of people who don’t feel like passive victims but instead act!

Now, this financial crisis lends itself so marvelously to passivity and victimhood.  It’s complicated as all get out.  Who can understand it, let alone act on it (besides Bush, Bernanke, Frank and Paulson, and do they even understand it)?  There’s lots of frustration and heaps of blame to throw around.  Still I ask: Why not act?  Yes.  You and I . . . Act.  Like these two everyday leaders did last week. 

Jonathan Smith wrote an email to the 60 or so people in his Leadership Detroit class entitled “It’s Our Turn to Lead.”*  How cool that he would reach out to his peers with ideas on how to lead in times of crisis and change!  He had no authority, appointment, salary, expectation.  He simply took it on himself to share constructive thoughts.

The other proactive leader that caught my attention was my wife, Governor Granholm.  You might ask, “Are you really saying a governor is an everyday leader????  Come on!”  But in this case, she’s leading up, much like Jonathan Smith was.   I heard her on the phone last week, telling staff “I need to talk to Barney Frank today.”  They set it up.   And she told me she was talking to the Director of the National Governors Association about how to mobilize governors.  And over the weekend she was talking to financial experts like Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, asking how governors could play a helpful role in this enormous undertaking.  I don’t often publicly brag, but I was so impressed that she wasn’t hiding behind complexity, or saying “it’s a federal issue,” or waiting for direction.  She was on it – an everyday leader, being proactive.

 Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People remains one of THE best books around.  The first of Covey’s seven habits is “be proactive.  Don’t give in to the complexity and distance this week.  Ask what you (and yours) can do!  Invest.  Save.  Help somebody else out.  Inform yourself.  Call a talk show.  Be involved.  The country is great to the degree we all act with greatness – especially in challenging times:

 Lead with your best self,



  • Dan,
    I completely agree with you. We have been given the gift to see the opportunity in this crisis. We can be proactive and rethink our career goals. We can be proactive and take a hard look at the industry we are in and ask ourselves where the future of that industry lies.

  • The person who said “America is great, because her people are great” was Alexis de Tocqueville. He is oft quoted, and amazingly accurate in his assessment a couple of centuries ago.

  • As American, we talk too much, we eat too much, we spend too much and not to mention we blame too much (President, Governor, Fed chair and list goes on.)

    Having said that and reading your article, it is good to be positive. Freedom is a very BIG word. However are we free from WORRY of daily challenges?

    People feel very extremely helpless. Recent financial crisis caused by greed of wall street/other wealthy people as well as callousness of our President towards the suffering of common people have brought us to a point that people in general have become cynical. There is a sense of paranoia of conspiracy around us. People have stopped trusting their government. What a sad day.

    First it was airline industry bailout, then insurance, then banking, then housing…what is next? We are rewarding irresponsible lending practices in the name of national interest. When are we going to have a courage to take away $360 million away from Countrywide CEO and put him in jail for the decisions he made to profit self? For that matter at least take away every CEO’s bonus whose company has brought us into this situation.

    Yes, let’s bring that freedom back. Lte’s feel free of fear.

  • Louis Tice of the Pacific Institute in Seattle, Washington offers a paradox, “You give up control in order to be in control”. Confident leaders do not have to rule by controlling and punitive threats. He also discusses Erickson’s book, “Eight Stages of Human Development”, regarding leadership. Leadership starts at the top with basic trust. A dishonest leader cannot be an effective leader. Controlling and punitive threats will have consequences and there will be a backlash against such a leader. People will subtly undermine the leader and in the end the leader is not in control and he or she remains in a constant state of fear. A fearful leader is an unstable leader. Good examples of fearful and unstable leaders are Napoleon and Hitler. We must be vigilant of such leaders, be it in the United States or in the world.

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes said “I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

    There’s a hope… simplicity on the other side of the current “complexity.”

  • Dan,

    Your commentary is right on target. The examples you mention require individual initiative and when soemone chooses to become involved in a noble cause in a positve way the energy they manifest becomes contagious. Others will soon follow the leader and take on challenges they would otherwise ignore or remain silent about. The political and economic situation facing our country at the moment, has generated a level of participation in our democracy that has been absent for decades. Hopefully, the current crisis and failed leadership our country is experiencing will cause those who were inactive to remain energetically vigilant,engaged in facing the issues of the day, and assume the leadersip necessary to insure that our democracy functions for the collective good of all Americans.

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