Smile Politely

How to Replace Terrible Leaders

From the informal statistics based simply on my own biased experience, I’d have to estimate that 50% of leaders are terrible. And of that 50%, I’d say that half of those are terrible because they are incompetent and/or ignorant and the other half simply because they are corrupt.

Fortunately, in the realm of politics we have at least four peaceful ways of replacing inept political leaders, or at least ensuring, that their negative influence is limited.

The first way is term limits which, unfortunately, can often be a painfully slow process. For example, I would have preferred that we had never elected George W. Bush in 2000. Then I would have preferred that he hadn’t been re-elected in 2004. But finally, after an agonizing eight years, he is out of the White House. George W. Bush pretty much flushed our country down the toilet; but at least, thanks to term limits, he could do so for only eight years.

The second way to replace incompetent political leadership is by election. Again, as with term limits, election is not a quick remedy. If we are unhappy with a leader, we usually have to wait a number of years before we can elect a new one. And even then, as in the case with Bush in the 2004 election, there is no guarantee that your fellow citizens will vote wisely.

A third way bad leaders can be removed is by impeachment, as in the current case with our former governor, Rod Blagojevich. This is the equivalent of the people (or their representatives) telling the leader, “You’re fired!” And it is often preferable to an election because, ideally, it is a quicker process.

The fourth way a failed political leader can be removed is when he or she voluntarily resigns from their office, for example, in the case of President Richard Nixon following the Watergate debacle. Resignation is always good because it allows the leader to preserve some dignity since they seemingly acknowledge that they have screwed up and are unfit to lead but are making at least one right decision by stepping down.

We are fortunate to have these peaceful means of removing failed political leaders. However, we are not so fortunate in other areas of our lives. For example, in our places of employment, few of us get to decide who our boss is. And when we are unlucky enough to have an incompetent boss, we usually don’t have the luxury of impeaching them. Of course, we can always look for another job which might save our own sanity, but it doesn’t really help the poor co-workers whom we have left behind. Most of us just comfort ourselves by tuning into The Office each week and laughing at how similar Michael Scott is to our own supervisor.

As for our church leaders, it all depends on what church we attend. Some churches elect their own leaders. Several years ago I worked for a Southern Baptist church and although I did not agree with much of their theology and positions on social issues, I admired the commitment the Southern Baptist Convention has towards the autonomy of the local church. Each local Southern Baptist church is responsible for hiring and, if need be, firing its own pastor.

But then there are other denominations such as the United Methodist Church and The Salvation Army where church leaders are chosen not by the local congregation, but are appointed by the higher-ups of a complex hierarchical bureaucracy. When these churches are staffed with incompetents, there is little that can be done except complain to someone with more authority than their pastor and hope the buffoon gets moved somewhere else. This might be good for your own church, but its ultimately bad for the whole organization as the incompetent pastor simply gets moved around from one church to another.

I think, in general, our world needs better ways of getting rid of leaders who, as my dear, departed grandmother would have said, “don’t know shit from apple butter.” Now, I’m not talking about things like bloody coups and assassinations. I mean swift but peaceful ways. We do have peaceful means of terminating bad politicians, but they are all dreadfully slow processes. And we really have no effective means whatsoever of getting rid of the bad leaders in our everyday lives: at work, church or anywhere else they may materialize.

It would be nice, at the very least, to be able to impeach them or to impose term limits on their reigns of stupidity, but I would prefer something more expedient.

Perhaps it could be as simple as a behavioral experiment. For example, when a leader blames someone else for their own mistake their employees could push a button that administers a mildly painful electric shock. Of course, I am kidding. Sort of.

I would like you, dear readers, to weigh in on this topic. Tell me the horror stories about the incompetent and unprofessional leaders you have experienced. They might be the owners or managers of the restaurants at which you work or the executives of your corporation. Maybe they’re your preachers, teachers, principals, advisors or band directors. Let’s hear how they’ve mis-managed, mis-communicated and made your life miserable. Tell us how they’ve lied, cheated and stolen and how they’ve blamed others for their own mistakes. This is your opportunity to vent.

But don’t just complain. Put on your thinking caps and submit to me your best creative ideas for getting rid of them. Perhaps you have successfully dealt with a bad leader. How did you do it? Did you form a union? Report them to a higher authority? Blackmail them?

I look forward to your comments.


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