Leadership in an Era of Anger: The Leader America Wants vs. The Leader America Needs

David Jung, Staff Writer

America is in a desperate search for strong, unwavering leadership. As the presidential election rapidly approaches, Americans must ask themselves what they truly want and more importantly, what they need. We live in an age of anger and confusion. Our era is marked with resentment towards the government and the bureaucrats of Washington D.C. In our desperation, we turn to anti-establishment figures such as Donald Trump on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. However, are the qualities we desire in a good leader more important than the qualities we need in a good leader?

What is it that a significant majority of Americans want? Many of these American voters believe that the political and economical system has failed them. For the most part, they have lost trust in the government’s ability to protect and serve them. A Gallup Poll on satisfaction with America’s current state has shown that while in late 2001, 70% of people were satisfied and a mere 28% were dissatisfied, in late 2015 only 29% of people were satisfied and a massive 70% were dissatisfied.

This dissatisfaction with America explains the massive eruption of Donald Trump’s campaign. The Trump phenomenon is caused by America’s mistrust in government as well as people’s attraction to his direct, brash speaking style. He rambles on about building a wall on the Mexican border and cutting taxes on the extremely wealthy all the while insulting the media and his opponents.  According to a CNN interview, a Trump supporter named Sally Bradbury said, “ ‘I like his aggressive approach to save America. Not taking any bullsh-t from anybody. Start taking our country back instead of letting people come in and control it.’ ”

Americans are tired of losing their jobs. Americans are tired of political correctness. Americans are tired of ineffective government. These reasons contribute to why we are so desperate for unique and to some degree, completely radical leadership. We want a leader who will take charge, make the big calls, and start acting. By harnessing people’s fear of losing their jobs and ultimately their country, Trump offers himself as the epitome of a tough, unwavering candidate who speaks simply and will not participate in the semantics of politics. In an era of political passiveness, he shines as the symbol for groundbreaking, radical change.

However, Americans must realize that in the end of the day, Trump is no qualified leader. He gives the illusion of leadership yet in reality, it really is just an illusion. Trump captivates audiences as an entertainer but sells himself as a leader, although the former is what truly defines him. Everything from his appearance to his obnoxious antics scream high television ratings, not profound change.

And on the other end of the spectrum lies Bernie Sanders, a self-described Socialist who according to ABC, describes his own campaign as, “ ‘a grassroots campaign, designed not only to elect someone to be president of the United States, but to build a political movement.’ ” Sanders preaches a gospel of economic equality and improving the lives of the poor. He has stood firm on his positions of helping our needy, our veterans, and our country’s ecological health throughout his tenure in Congress. Sanders is known for his fiery, and occasionally, accusatory speeches of Republicans and the wealthy.

Like Trump, Sanders is tough and he is very straightforward. Like Trump, Sanders appeals to a group of Americans who are angry at the government. However, unlike Trump, Sanders does not senselessly attack other people and make derogatory comments about other ethnic groups and females. Unlike Trump, Sanders is a leader with experience within the system and outside of it. Unlike Trump, Sanders is not an entertainer but rather a leader.

Our desire for harsh, aggressive leadership is misleading. In contrast to trending leadership traits as of now, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that the leadership qualities people found most important in order of importance are honesty, intelligence, decisiveness, organization, compassion, innovativeness, and ambition. We need a leader who must fulfill some if not all of these characteristics. We need someone who is willing to humbly and quietly take the Office of President of the United States and spark profound, long lasting change. Maybe, in all this chaos, we should spend less time looking at who points the most fingers and more time looking at who makes the best points.