[July 9, 2016] One the saddest events in my military career was when, as a company commander, I jumped to the conclusion that one of my soldiers had acted inappropriately. One of the most preventable mistakes a leader can make is to judge a situation without relevant facts on hand. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has done the same and showed us how to fail as a leader.
The deaths of two civilians by police; one each in Minnesota and Louisiana sparked immediate protests in several large cities. Governor Dayton, within hours and without receiving facts about it said of the Minnesota incident, “Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and the passengers, were white? I don’t think it would have.”1 His words will certainly come back to haunt him as it adds to the anti-police rhetoric nationwide. His behavior will have unintended consequences, none of which will be good.
Within hours of Dayton’s press conference and his reprehensible comments a shooting occurred in Dallas, Texas. At the end of a Black Lives Matter demonstration, 5 police officers were killed and 7 wounded during an ambush specifically targeting police. Much still remains unknown about the two incidents and those police shootings but it has reignited the national debate over how law enforcement treats people of color and the public response.
Governor Dayton’s incendiary comments were both premature and indicative of gross negligence. This is the type of mistakes junior leaders make, not senior, experienced leaders like Dayton. The question is why would he say this without the facts and do so publically at a press conference. We may never know the answer to that question but we can make a good judgment about Dayton’s character; rather the lack thereof.
He is a leader who made a serious mistake, one that could have been easily avoided by waiting at least until some facts had been established. It shows that he is immature and lacks good judgment; two things no one wants in a leader. Remember the City of Baltimore leadership reaction to a similar situation? Governors – all senior leaders – have the responsibility to maintain calm and ask for everyone to wait for the facts to be revealed and to reiterate that we are a nation of laws that must be followed.
Governor Dayton’s words are not those of a real leader. I’ve always learned the most difficult of leadership lessons from those who fail. I only hope Governor Dayton has learned something from it.
[Don’t forget to “Like” the Leader Maker at our Facebook Page.]