Orville and Wilbur Wright changed the world in 1903. They displayed a barrier breaking, pioneering spirit that not only affected aviation but nearly every sector of society. They showed the world what it was like to dream big and execute. They showed the world that impossible really was a misnomer and our world is better because of their example.
The plane they first flew in North Carolina, which flew for a whopping 120 feet, is far below the sophistication, amenities and speed of the models we enjoy today but the essence is still the same. Today's planes can carry up to several hundred people, fly thousands of miles on one trip, and travel at speeds that even rival the speed of sound! With these and many, many more improvements, both planes (the modern and the first) still have exactly two wings.
In the world of aviation, two wings of identical length, width, weight and height occupy a very important function if flight is to be successful. Certainly a plane could probably take off with only one wing, depending solely upon the force of thrust coming from the engines, but the end will be undesirable. The one-winged plane would be an aviation disaster. Ron Harvey, a business partner in Columbia, SC remarked recently, "Passion can be the thrust that gets your organization off the ground but eventually you have to win with people if you plan to stay in the air."
Sadly, what isn't allowed in aviation because of the clear impending danger is routinely allowed, and at times encouraged, in the realm of leadership. In the realm of leadership, the nearly exclusive focus of the vast majority of programs is competence. Perform better; achieve more; develop your skills are only three of the myriad of sayings that reinforce an unhealthy focus upon leadership competence, thus building a one-winged plane.
Leadership competence is important. We need leaders in every sector of society who have the requisite skills to do the job. We don't need people in leadership positions without competence, but at the same time, we cannot continue promoting people who are one-winged planes either. In nearly every sector of society we can find competence, but something very important is still missing. We have dynamic preachers, savvy business leaders, charismatic politicians, supremely-educated educators, creative musicians and the list goes on, but sadly, we have one-winged planes occupying many leadership positions while damaging the masses in the process.
You've noticed it, haven't you? Men and women with extreme competence but lack the "other wing" of the plane. It seems as if our society is desirous of "one-winged" planes because we have seen so few two-winged planes. Or maybe, the two-winged plane is simply not as sexy as the one-winged plane. Go figure! Unfortunately, since the other wing is significantly underemphasized, the masses are really aloof to the essentiality of the other wing. But just what is this other wing? What's equally important to leadership competence but so often overlooked in nearly every formal program of leadership preparation and development?
While the first wing of the plane is competence, which represents skill and ability, the second wing of the plane is character, which represents moral soundness and quality of choice. How many leadership development programs place equal emphasis upon character development as they place upon the development of competence? Certainly, there has been an improvement in asserting the need for character in leadership, but this is hardly an "equal" emphasis. Unfortunately, even the best programs see character as a "tail wing" of a plane, which is important, but not nearly as important as the two "primary" wings of the plane.
To authenticate my assertion, consider the two individuals currently bidding for the highest political office in the US, and arguably, the most powerful political office in the world--Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Most would not want me to compare these two individuals, and certainly there is legitimate grounds for distinction, however, they do share something in common (even more than the money each have exchanged with each others varying political and social interests)--the underemphasis of character development.
Mr. Trump is a billionaire through real estate, media and other business investments, which does require competence. Mrs. Clinton is a multimillionaire, former Secretary of State, which also requires competence. Yet, both of them have legal issues and a host of retracted statements staring them in the face for apparent "other-winged" matters. Clearly, one is more polished and palatable than the other, but the facts still remain, their moral clarity and quality of choices are not necessarily what you want at that high office.
Mr. Trump has been married three times, faces IRS audit issues, has marginalized those not privileged to have his level of financial success, profited from pornography and faces legal proceedings regarding a "suspect" real estate university, to say the least. In the meantime, he has sold millions of books, made hundreds of millions off real estate transactions, and starred in a hugely popular business reality television show. Do you see the one-wing?
Mrs. Clinton is "rumored" to have profited substantially from presumed non-profit work in Haiti through the Clinton Foundation, she was a proud protege of a major figure in the KKK of the 40's & 50's (Robert Byrd who initially left the KKK because it was bad for politics), sings high praises for eugenics "matriarch" and founder of Planned Parenthood (Margaret Sanger), was "slapped on the wrist" for her lack of judgment during and after the bombing of our Embassy in Benghazi, which resulted in the murder of an American ambassador, and lastly, she knowingly shared classified information on private servers in countries that were hostile to America while having her lawyers delete correspondences before her servers were confiscated. In the meanwhile, she became a successful lawyer, married and became First Lady of the United States, made millions off keynote speeches, became Secretary of State, won the affections of millions and now has the potential to be the 1st female President of the United States.
My simple point is to show that the most "two-winged" people of both parties didn't make it to the final cut. They were not sexy and provocative enough for the modern palate. There were a few on the GOP ticket and one on the DNC ticket, but it would be easy to boast of the "character" of Bernie Sanders over Hilary, but that's not who the delegates and voters of the DNC desired. The recent DNC email scandal shows that Bernie never really had a chance and Hillary knew this. On the other side, it would be easy to boast of the character of Dr. Carson or Marco Rubio, but they were neither who the voters wanted nor who the super delegates had to reluctantly accept.
Mr. Trump speaks with the most inconsiderate and ridiculous rhetoric possible while Mrs. Clinton asserts with polished verbal skill that a child in the womb doesn't have legal rights even at two hours prior to birth! Yes, these are the options for leadership in the most "successful" country in the world. I can hear the detractors say, "Marcus, no one is perfect. The past presidential candidates had their issues as well." No devils advocate here. This is certainly the truth, but unfortunately, this blog wasn't written then, it's written right now. Additionally, why even play that card? Both parties will assert the competence of their respective candidate while neither party will assert their character. Why is that? Could it be that we have made one-winged leadership sexy and two -winged leadership boring? In every major sector of society, we need two-winged leaders and they are out there. Most just don't have the sexiness or the resources to be readily noticed or taken seriously. Said another way, one should never have to be rich and famous to run for president. One needs to have two-wings.
This blog isn't really about politics (the image was really my bait) but the recent events of the political sphere make it an easy point of reference. As leaders, whether on the micro scale of a parent or the macro scale of a President, we are called to be more than one-winged; we are called to be two-winged. We are called to prepare the wing of character equally to the wing of competence. Those who are looking to us for leadership, guidance, and clarity need two-winged representatives. No matter how much passion, or engine thrust we have within, it is imperative that we not simply take flight, but remain in flight. We need to remain in flight and land without casualties to others or ourselves. This can only happen if we require the best two-wings of ourselves and those who assert themselves to lead us. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden remarked, "Ability may get you to the top, but character will keep you there." It is possible that this precept has lost its luster in our generation of leadership.
Decide today to build and maintain the two wings of leadership--character and competence.