Peter’s Perspective: Obstacle to Citizen Leadership – “The Ends Justify the Means”

The Ends Justify the Means

While we do not lack for role models who share and demonstrate what it means to consistently live by guiding principles, there is also a fair share of public personalities whose demonstrate the opposite – whose primary guiding principle seems to be the ends justify the means (whatever it takes, or whatever I can get away with). Too often, these personalities seem to be lauded and rewarded, or at the very least, they seem to encounter few and feeble consequences for behaving and speaking in ways that reflect and reinforce that value.

The external pressures of fierce competition and the rush to results, along with our internal drive to win or a focus on personal gain (to the detriment of personal integrity) also pose as obstacles to citizen leadership. They can prompt individuals to adopt the attitude that the ends justify the means – and put them in a position of ignoring their own principles.

But in the end, we are the final arbiters of our actions.

Peter’s Perspective: Citizen Leadership is the Prerequisite to Engaging Leadership

Q.  What exactly is a citizen leader? 

A.  A person who brings their character and courage to making a contribution on behalf of the community and the common good. 

Look closely at the people around you who are in positions of leadership or who aspire to positions of leadership.

Character: What are their guiding principles? Are their values ones that inspire you to want to follow their lead? Do those individuals regularly speak and act in ways that reflect the qualities they profess (or is it lip service)? Which individuals do have the qualities of character that would engage your enthusiasm?

Courage: Which individuals do have the courage of character to live by their values? 

Contribution to one’s community and the common good: Do the man and women who aspire to leadership positions participate in or champion efforts to better their world and create great places for us all to live, work and play? or conversely, Are their efforts regularly or largely self-serving?

Now, with the responses to these questions in hand, which of the individuals would you want to follow?

If you hope to be an engaging leader — that is, if you hope to have anyone want to follow your lead – then you need to be a person that others would want to follow.

And by extension, if companies or communities or churches or schools or civic and social organizations hope to grow their cadre of leaders – they need to insist that their men and women be people whom others would want to follow.

It starts with citizen leadership.

Peter’s Perspective: What is Citizen Leadership and Why is it Important Today?

Citizen Leadership is:

Character and courage: Men, women, young adults and teens getting clear on who they are and how they want to be in the world, so they act and speak with authenticity and with the courage of their convictions day in and day out, in private and public – at home, in school, at work, in their club, in church and temple, on a team, in a troop, in the support group, in the neighborhood.

Contribution to the community: Men, women, young adults and teenagers applying the qualities of their character as they participate in or champion efforts to better their world and create great places for us all to live, work and play.


We live among circumstances that test our character every day. We live in an era during that barrages from all sides and online by forces — whether psychological, physical, spiritual or other — that can leave us struggling to know: What is the right thing to do? How is the right way to be? To act? What is the right thing to say? Pressure from peers, parents, partners, teachers, bosses; professional pressure, social pressure, popular culture, and social media; prospects for personal gain, power, profit, prestige and position; noxious preachers and pundits, prejudice and fear mongering — they fog up our minds, and sicken our hearts.

I believe these forces are particularly treacherous for those who have not yet developed a personally meaningful set of guiding principles and who are struggling to hang on to a clear, steady sense of who they are in the face of a daily assault by these forces. I think, in particular, of younger people, just starting out, just trying to find their way and figure out the rules of engagement in our culture, in their world.

They, and we, all risk falling prey to the influence of those who would manipulate us for self-serving purposes. This is especially true in our culture in which the dominant forces – at least the very public dominant forces – seem to be profit/wealth, power, prestige and personal gain. These are amoral forces. They are not necessarily bad or good.

What is good is when the men, women and young adults who find themselves in the throws of these forces hold constant to their personal principles and act in ways that reflect those principles. That is the foundation of citizen leadership.

Peter’s Perspective: When all is said and done, we live in a world we create by our actions and words

We are all witness to the torrent of fabrication, lying, maligning, intimidation and fear mongering that are being used (and all too often condoned or lauded) by people in all of our institutions – government, business, media, sports, religion – to pursue their ends. Hiding the truth, if not outright lying, seems to be emerging as a behavioral norm rather than abnormality. (This is the topic of the recently published Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff by Pulitzer Prize winning author, James B Stewart).

So many people are at risk of being or are already being swept up with the tide – choosing to act and speak in ways that mirror these public and private figures without pausing to examine the kind of world their words and actions are creating for themselves and for the people around them in their homes, at work, in school, on their teams, in their churches and temples, or among their neighbors.

It takes a strong and steady sense of self at one’s core, and the courage to act and speak from one’s core, to deflect the daily forces that would have us follow a leader who invites, tempts or at worst insists that we deviate from who we are and how we aspire to be in the world.

When all is said and done, we live (today and well into the future) in a world we create by our actions and words. Citizen leadership asks us to be clear on who we are and what we stand for today, and prompts us to speak and act in ways that create the great places where we would want to live, work and play, today and tomorrow.

Peter’s Perspective: We Need a Dorothy

Looking and listening to the players on the national stage, does anyone else feel like we’re watching a production of the Wizard of OZ – absent Dorothy?

I see it this way. We’ve got the scarecrow missing a brain played by the Tea Party. Add to that the tin man who lacks a heart – the Republican Party. And finally the lion largely lacking in courage – witness the White House and the Democratic Party. They’re all in need of a guide – someone with smarts, caring and courage.

Secretary Clinton, please help. Yes, you’ve said that you’re no longer keen to be President. But we desperately need the qualities that you possess in abundance: intellect, heart and resolve.

Your boss has capitulated one too many times and has lost the faith and trust of his base: He extended the heartless Republican tax cuts for the wealthiest (leaving the middle class shut out); he bowed to the brainless threat of the Tea Party to undermine the “full faith and credit of The United States” (and I thought it was the policy of this government not to negotiate with extortionists); and just this past week punting on the implementation of solid, health and science-based EPA standards to reduce smog and thereby safeguard the long-term health of vulnerable men, women and children. Why the punt? All because business concerns and the Republican leaders insisted that the indefensible current Republican-sponsored standards be maintained.

Mind you, these are the same business players who demand taxpayer-funded bailouts and handouts then often treat those same taxpayers – men and women in their employment – with contempt. Yes: cutting employee compensation and benefits while elevating the same for senior managers and executives to historical highs; investing in job creation overseas in order to reduce payroll expenses and increase profits at home; and lobbying for and finding every which way to avoid paying their fair share of state and national taxes (and by extension shifting a greater portion of that obligation, once again, to the taxpaying men and women in their employ) – these are what contempt looks like.

We need a Dorothy who will push back, fight back. We need a person of courage in action on this stage, or this play is going to end badly, very badly.

Courage: it’s made up of two elements, mental resolve and deep felt caring. When joined together, they are a force to be reckoned with. I see no such courage, no such force on the national stage today.

TO:          Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

The State Department

Washington, DC

 RE:         Casting Call

 MESSAGE:   We desperately need a Dorothy!