Populism Is Not Leadership

I consider a Populist as “one who speaks to and for common people.” This type of leader purports to know what the “common folk” are feeling, thinking, and saying. Usually, they voice this from the safety of their homes or while among friends at work or church. The populist leader is acutely aware of what specific groups want to hear if this aspiring leader is to generate followers.

A populist, as I choose to define them, attempts to become this unstructured group’s public voice. Despite what they may insist, their goal is not to help the individuals in the group but to claim the power to represent them. In most cases, however, what the populist does and says is for their own advancement and self-aggrandizement. If this last point is true, a populist cannot make a good leader.

Good leaders do not attempt to speak for any group. Instead, they seek to nurture the individuals who follow them to be as much themselves as possible. Their goal is to grow them into full participants and empower them to become leaders themselves. Also, a good leader does not lower their standards to the “common” level to seek popularity.

This leader realizes that they are responsible for creating an environment that facilitates and assists individuals who are unafraid to grow and duplicate the same nurturing environment in their own inner circles. A good leader is a role model in every sense. Respect, dialogue, and personal integrity are their hallmarks.

On the other hand, division and exclusion are the populist leader’s stock in trade. Their power is exercised from the top down, with “divide and conquer” as their guiding principle. When society is broken into “for and against,” division occurs almost everywhere. When that happens, trust and dialogue become impossible. How can problems be solved when dialogue between people does not exist?

Compare this to the outstanding leader I constantly refer to. They seek inclusion, the fullest participation possible between people of every persuasion. They unite their followers, increasing the opportunities for addressing problems and reaching a consensus.

Author: Sy Ogulnick

Sy Ogulnick received a BA from UCLA, Teacher’s Credential from Los Angeles Board of Education and completed phase I (Master’s portion) in a Doctor of Behavioral Science program at California Coast University. Sy leased and operated a summer day camp in LA. He and his wife then purchased virgin wilderness land in Northern CA, where they built and operated a coed summer camp. They moved to Las Vegas, NV, and purchased, built and operated a community children’s program for families staying in a major resort casino in Las Vegas. They have created programs for children nationwide that employed many people and in the process developed successful training programs for personnel. This led Sy to lecture on how to train staff and the creating of community within the workplace. Sy was then invited to speak at professional conferences on how best to hire and train employees, which led to his becoming a consultant in the art of improving relationships in a work environment and eventually to his epiphany that “Leaders are the primary problem and the answer to the personnel issues that arise in the workplace.” Sy has written numerous papers on the subject of interpersonal relationships, leadership and power. He has lectured throughout the United States, has been interviewed by the media and has appeared on many radio and TV talk shows

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