People in leadership positions are not necessarily leaders, a fact demonstrated by President Obama’s Christmas in Hawaii. Too often people in leadership positions are more concerned about the perquisites of their offices than the service aspect of leadership. One of the key characteristics of effective leaders is that they are willing to sacrifice in order to serve not just the mission but those who are responsible for carrying out the mission. They take care of those who take care of them.
I do not begrudge President Obama taking a vacation in Hawaii, but I do question his doing so at Christmas. Why? Because by celebrating Christmas in Hawaii, the President ensured that more than 100 members of his support staff would not be able to spend Christmas with their families. This fact is why Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush made a point of spending Christmas at Camp David. By doing so they minimized the number of people who would be missing in action when their families celebrated Christmas.
The service aspect of leadership is grounded in the concept of sacrifice. For example, when I served in the Marine Corps we learned that leadership meant making sure that our men ate before we ate—it meant taking care of the men who took care of the mission. Effective leadership is about service, not the perquisites of rank or position. In order to take care of those who carry out the mission, leaders must be willing to sacrifice some of their own wants and needs. What better time of year to set an example of sacrificial leadership than at Christmas, the time of year when we celebrate the birth of the Savior who gave His life so that we might live. What better time of year for President Obama to set an example of effective leadership?
Whenever the president travels, he is accompanied by a herd of support personnel. These personnel include the president’s physician and support staff, the Secret Service detail, White House staffers, the pilots, flight attendants, and maintenance crew for Air Force One, and journalists. Just like you and me, these people have families who would like to have their loved ones at home for Christmas. By spending Christmas in Hawaii, President Obama showed that he is more concerned about the privileges of position than the families of his staff. There is a name for this attitude: arrogance.
While it is true that rank has its privileges, how people in positions of rank exercise those privileges says a lot about what kind of leader they are. I said in a previous column that President Obama fails the leadership test. His Christmas in Hawaii is just another example of why. With so many Americans out of work this Christmas, I had hoped that President Obama would do something that showed he cares about them, something like inviting several unemployed Americans and their families to the White House for Christmas. But instead of being a good leader this Christmas, the president turned out to be an unreformed Scrooge.