Stop Expecting Elected Officials to Lead

We talk about the office of the President as a position that leads the American people. And then, every four years we are disenchanted with the leadership provided. We talk about blowing up the whole thing and throw the bums out. We say we want leaders in the offices we elect people into, but it is worth remembering that in a democracy, elected officials are not leaders in the way we might think, and they never have been. 

The reality is that elected officials are not leaders because they cannot be. That is not what an elected official is elected to do. Leadership and elected office are related but only loosely. Perhaps the words of the late great Mitch Hedburg are helpful here:

When you're in Hollywood and you're a comedian, everybody wants you to do other things. All right, you're a stand-up comedian, can you write us a script? That's not fair. That's like if I worked hard to become a cook, and I'm a really good cook, they'd say, "OK, you're a cook. Can you farm?" 

Cooking and farming are related only in that they both work with food, but these jobs require a different skill set.

So if elected officials are not leaders, what are they? Fine tuned followers.

They follow the wills of their constituents. They can only get into office if they do just that. There is a reason that a prophet (a leader) is not elected to be Ruler of the Land. So do not forget that any elected official is not leading but reflecting back a large group of people. You can hate the elected official if you want to, but do not forget that they are only a proxy for a much larger group. Are we willing to hate large groups of people represented by an elected official?

If we are looking to the elected officials to be leaders, I might suggest we look elsewhere.