[October 30, 2018] Divide and conquer is an old piece of military advice. If you want to win at war, be prepared to divide your enemy and attack them piecemeal in battle. That, however, does not work when leaders are divisive; which is what the tactic of divide and conquer is about.
By being divisive, there may be some short-term gain when running for political office but the longer-term damaging effects are lasting and can be unpredictable. Take for example the vitriolic rhetoric coming from prominent politicians in the United States.
Many U.S. politicians now advocate for confrontation and painting opponents as “evil.” This is especially true of U.S. Representative Maxine Waters1 and past U.S. DOJ Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr.2 Both have made it clear that their political opponents are evil people and should be “confronted” or “we kick ‘em” whenever you meet them. Their words resonate.
In both examples, there has been little pushback on their calls for thinly-veiled violence. And they are not the only ones and it is not restricted to the Democratic Party. We see it worse in the presidential elections just completed in the country of Brazil. It looks like they have copied divisive U.S. leadership.
There is no doubt that the words and actions of leaders will be taken out of context, exaggerated, or ignored to justify any behavior. That is why it is of the utmost importance that leaders are clear in what they say so that their words are not mistaken. Neither Waters nor Holder have done this and thus show that they lack the character needed to be a true leader.
Five years ago I wrote about how Americans were dissatisfied with the U.S. government. The number one reason was “polarizing rhetoric.” Nothing has changed since then. Politicians, like all leaders, are subject to the same characteristics and standards that any other leader would have to measure up to. Great leaders bring people together to achieve a common goal.
Uniting people is the hallmark of great leadership and it has never changed and never will. Polarizing leaders will never be great and it is only a matter of time before their downfall.