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Jewish World Review April 22, 2004 / 1 Iyar 5764

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Can a leader who cannot admit a mistake truly lead?

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | I've heard so much about the 9/11 Commission being a fault-finding entity. Plenty of it to go around. But no matter where the fault lies, or who might be responsible, as one English proverb goes, "He who never makes mistakes, never makes anything."


My guess is, that if the Old Englishman who came up with that proverb listened to President Bush's press conference, he would assume, at least when it came to 9/11 and Iraq, the President has done nothing wrong and therefore, produced nothing. Or perhaps the President just didn't understand the question.


When the President was asked whether he believes he has acted correctly even if it costs him his job, he said, "I don't intend to lose my job. Because I'm going to tell the American people I have a plan to win the war on terror."


To his credit, when the President was again pressed as to whether he had failed, the President said he was sure that he has made a mistake at sometime but he would have to think on it to come up with one. Is there one person in the world, save some lawyer, who would have a problem coming up with a mistake they've made?


Asked what his biggest mistake was since 9/11 and what he had learned from it, the President stammered, hem'd and haw'd into a "I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it." I'm guessing his "plan" was not one he would come up with his own.


I may be a bit presumptuous here, but is this a subject that the President will have to discuss with his political advisors to come up with an appropriate answer? That, at least, would be a mistake, though one I imagine he would not admit.


He finally replied: "I hope - I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't - you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one." Not even one? While being under the spot might shake some, do we want a man in charge that can't come up with one mistake? Or perhaps he is under the belief, or his advisors are, that you never admit imperfection.

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Of course, as we've seen in many interviews of talk radio and the liberal media, the President's seeming refusal to reflect on any type of failure, is being construed as his being "resolute."


"An individual who has no capacity for reflection is deficient in social and intellectual development," says Philadelphia psychologist, Dr. Howard Dansky. "Reactionaries may refer to it as consistent leadership — but in actuality, it means that rigid ideologues will stick to their agenda no matter what consequences result."


We learn nothing from perfection. It feels good for the moment, but it doesn't teach us a dang thing. Never did. Never will.


What occurs when you realize you've failed or made a mistake? It certainly doesn't feel very good, but if our desire is to enhance life, we dig through that "miscalculation"to find an opportunity to help you improve. After you take what you can use, THROW OUT THE REST! It serves no purpose. Do not give it any power. Take the lemons and make lemonade. Take the leftover lemon rinds, grind them up in your food processor and use them as fertilizer.


The President was asked again if he has failed; failed as a communicator getting his message out on Iraq.. He responded by saying that it would be "the kind of thing the voters would decide in November." That he cannot, or refuses to, concede any mistakes himself, says much of how he feels about imperfection; that acceptance of one's flaws is a flaw in itself. This is difficult news to grasp from a man whose image has been built on being all too human.


Acknowledgment of failure is the first step to improvement and if a leader chooses not to make our lives better, why follow him?


It might behoove the President to take a look at President Lincoln's list of public failures to understand that they didn't hurt, and arguably, aided his winning the presidency.


Knowledge and improvement of our obvious problematic governmental agencies and day-to-day operations is the objective of the 9/11 Commission. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes.


Sadly, our President would rather be right than learn. And that, ladies and gentleman...is an altogether different kind of fertilizer.


(As a personal note...please do not hold JWR responsible for my writing as I have locked the editor in the website cellar until Friday AM)

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JWR contributor Steve Young, is an award-winning television writer, author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful: Mistakes, Adversity, Failure and Other Stepping Stones to Success" . Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Steve Young