Leaders can often find themselves in difficult positions. Circumstances may dictate a change of direction, re-evaluation of an approach or a change in a program for the benefit of the business and of course, some people will complain if it is not explained properly and some will complain regardless but this is not usually a big deal and it is mostly business as usual within a short time. Spare a thought however, for politicians. (What?  Sympathy for pollies?) Well think about it – we elect them to represent us and our wishes in a general sense, in the management of our country, state or city but life in the public arena can make you a big target. As I watch the US election process and to a ‘less strange’ extent ours here at home, I find myself noting that we can sometimes put our leaders in an impossible situation.

If they make a campaign promise which because of political opposition or economic circumstances cannot be fulfilled, they are a ‘promise breaker’ and not to be trusted. If they change their mind following a vigorous debate or public opposition they are a ‘flip flopper’ and not to be trusted. If they press on to execute a decision that has now become unpopular they are arrogant or indifferent to the public’s wishes and not to be trusted. If they should have a lapse of character or judgement they are not worthy of public office but that begs the question: Can you hold public officials to a higher standard and if so, what is that standard? Surely as our representatives they represent us in more ways that numbers. They are also representative of our beliefs, feelings on matters, likes and dislikes and national character and – as they are human – our flaws… That is, they are likely to fall in the normal range of behaviours that can be expected from the public at large but when they do we want them strung up and at the same time their story splashed all over the media and repeated for as long as they are in office

I believe that we are often too harsh in our assessment of our elected representatives. If we are continually critical when unpopular but essentially correct decisions are made, we risk driving them into a position where they make only politically acceptable decisions and we end up getting nothing done and the country suffers. (See the recent US challenge with attempting to reduce their deficit.)  Sometimes painful and unpopular choices have to be made for the long-term good and leaders have to stick to their guns despite the opposition and the damage it may do to their re-election chances – but isn’t that why we elect them?

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