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Lee Rasch: Change starts with our expectations

Lee Rasch: Change starts with our expectations

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The Inauguration of Joe Biden represents a transition for the United States. Some Americans are pleased while others are disappointed. Despite these opposing views, all indications suggest that the overwhelming majority of Americans were dismayed at the assault on the nation’s capital on January 6.

The actions and reactions of government leaders, elected officials, law enforcement, the media, and the public will reverberate for some time. We are a nation divided and it will take time and much effort by all parties to heal. Without question, elected officials are front and center to forward movement. The question remains whether they will be proactive, reactive, or nonactive in the healing process.

The need to raise expectationsElected officials are intended to serve as representatives of the will of the people. For good or bad, elected officials are also role models. As such they bear the responsibility of leadership. Ethical leaders are truthful, transparent, unifiers who work to serve the needs of their constituents.

But what do we, as citizens, expect of elected leaders? To put this in perspective, when we look for service from a local organization or business, we expect ethical practices. At the schools our children or grandchildren attend, we expect teachers and school administrators to be ethical role models. Sometimes these leaders may disappoint us. But clearly, we expect ethical leadership.

This level of expectation is clear in virtually every profession except...in the political arena. Sadly, when we hold low expectations, the performance that fol-lows is often even lower.

What about “Whataboutism”?There is a common practice in politics when a candidate or elected official is facing criticism. It frequently starts with the phrase “what about...?” followed by examples of the political opposition doing something similar or worse. Whataboutism is pervasive not only among elected officials but also among citizens. It implies that an ethical, moral, or legal breach is acceptable if someone else’s is similar or worse. It leads us on a downward spiral which ultimately ends at a place where “no one can be trusted,” “they are all liars”. When whataboutism is the pervasive practice for elected officials, we should not be surprised that the populace feels they cannot be trusted.

What about us, as citizens?Just as elected officials are role models, we, as citizens, bear a responsibility. When buying goods or services, if we are disappointed in a company practice we have the option to take our business elsewhere, file a complaint, provide a low review, or engage in dialogue about what it would take to meet our expectations.

Why not apply the same standard for elected officials? We must not accept leadership that is not truthful or transparent, is divisive, and is disrespectful of others. As citizens, as role models, we can speak out, we can express our expectations when we provide (or withhold) support for candidates and elected officials. And most importantly, we can exercise our voices by our vote.

Lee Rasch is executive director of LeaderEthics-Wisconsin. Visit leaderethicswi.org for more information on the group.

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