The Leader of the Free World

 But Who Is Really Following? 

    Ever since the end of World War II, the President of the United States has been acknowledged as “the leader of the Free World.” Although the Presidency has had many ups and downs during that period, no one could challenge the fact that America’s President was the primary spokesperson for all freedom-loving countries around the world.

But with the debate over Syria the past few weeks, an awkward truth has emerged: Hardly anyone is following the leader of the Free World anymore.

Despite lecturing both Congress and foreign leaders, President Obama has been unable to get support for a military strike against Syria for its use of chemical weapons. England, our staunchest ally, has refused to participate. Nor will NATO or the United Nations. Russia and China have been especially vehement in their opposition to the plan.

While President Obama has claimed he doesn’t need Congressional approval for his planned mission, it has been embarrassing to see how little support he has there, even among his own party. One Democratic Congresswoman admitted that the planned military venture into Syria is a terrible idea, but she said she would support it just to save the President from future humiliation.

In an effort to sell the Syria offensive to the American people, President Obama’s Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, have used arguments diametrically opposed to the positions they once held as Senators. Like the President, they have undermined their credibility by contradicting their passionate antiwar statements in the Senate.

In fairness to the President, his current lack of credibility is not entirely his fault. In addition to his own failure to explain the rationale for bombing Syria, he is reaping worldwide skepticism caused by America’s shortsighted ventures into Afghanistan and Iraq. This is reminiscent of how Gerald Ford struggled to restore respect to the Presidency after his predecessors brought us Vietnam and Watergate.

But it’s alarming when the leader of the Free World no longer can find anyone to follow him into battle. Critical leadership lessons are on display here, involving such principles as moral authority, credibility, and influence. And these lessons aren’t just about the Presidency—they apply to leaders on all levels and every sphere of life.

You may have an impressive title like President, governor, general, CEO, pope, pastor, bishop, financial advisor, or police officer. Yet, as someone once observed, “He who thinks he’s leading, when no one is following, is just taking a walk.” A corollary to this might be, “He who is ‘leading from behind’ will soon not lead anyone at all.”

So pray for President Obama. And ask yourself these questions about your own  leadership quotient: Who are YOU leading? Are they truly following?