The whole family was stunned. Little Bobby had just slapped his mother across the face, right in front of everyone. The act was violent, and clearly violated established household rules.
“That’s it, you’re getting a spanking!” exclaimed dad.
“No wait,” said mom. “We can’t stop violence with violence. Maybe we should just ground him.”
Dad wondered if maybe she was right, and called in the other children for advice. Bobby’s older sister said justice required that Bobby receive a slap in the face (and volunteered to administer it). Fearing precedent, two younger siblings all voted for no punishment whatsoever. Bobby’s twin brother Billy claimed Bobby had not slapped anyone at all, and threatened to slap the whole family if they punished Bobby.
Meanwhile, little Bobby watched.
With no consensus, mom and dad decided to sleep on it. The next day, discussions resumed and the neighbors were called in. The Jones family thought it was none of their business, the Smiths called for serious punishment, and the Millers threatened the Smiths.
One week later – after taking a telephone poll of the community – the parents finally made a decision. So what did they decide, and what was the result? It doesn’t matter. Bobby is still a brat, the other children don’t respect their parents, all the neighbors are angry at one another, and the whole town is confused.
Sometimes, there is no good response to a crisis. Sometimes a consensus can’t be reached. In such situations a good leader gets the best available information, considers advice from both sides, weighs the options, and takes decisive action. A good leader can handle criticism from opponents, and will take responsibility the consequences. A poor leader hates criticism and deflects blame. A poor leader equivocates, sends mixed signals, stalls for time, and looks for political cover.
The world is a messy place. We could use some leadership.