Lessons in leadership from Mitt Romney

His show of courage, dignity and ethics should be imitated

The impeachment saga was a travesty of justice at best. There is so much one can say or write about it — there is nothing to say.

My focus is on the unsung hero, Mitt Romney. Whatever one’s political persuasion, Romney demonstrated several of the most important elements of excellent leadership. Above the baying howl of sycophants, he chose to stand for his principles. Amidst his fellow Republicans, with whom he no doubt identifies at many levels, and for whom he has gone to bat on several occasions, he was able to be his own man.

Romney demonstrated leadership principle No. 1: courage. Courage, not brashness. Courage, not outrageous self-promotion. True courage.

As the great ethicist Aristotle claimed, courage is the most important virtue, for without it one cannot achieve any of the others. Courage is the hallmark of leadership. It must have taken great courage to go against his friends, his community, the people he consorts with, and stand alone with only his principles for company. I should not say “only his principles,” as without principles, what are we really?

Romney’s second element of leadership is that he behaved with dignity. He did not lash out, defend, decry his fellow Republicans for their cowardice, but simply chose the Martin Luther motto, “Here I stand and can do no other.” He was self-accountable and self-responsible. He took his conscience to be his personal, self-determining lodestar.

The third element of leadership that Romney demonstrated was his commitment to an ethical life. Ethics is about character and principles. It is about making choices that advance well-being, equity and justice. Politics, which is — or, shall I say, should be — the practical application of ethics, is concerned with creating a just society where citizens practice justice. How does one create a just society if the leaders do not practice justice?

Character development is based on the decisions we make and how they describe our life. Ethics challenge us not to make self-interested choices but ones where we set aside our egos and defer to options that may make us vulnerable. Romney did that.

There are many lessons to be learned from the political shenanigans in D.C. I am not a politician. My interest is ethics, and my question is whether Americans have lost their will and their desire to live an ethical life. Only an ethical life is a free one, and a happy one. Without it, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a hollow utterance not worthy of such a great country.

Annabel Beerel, Ph.D., is principal of Ethical Leadership Consulting and is the author of “Ethical Leadership and Global Capitalism: A Guide to Good Practice.”

Categories: Opinion