In other words, do you want to vote for someone just angling for a higher office or someone who wants to be a part of solving the problems that exist? We need the latter, but I fear all too often we elect the former. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect our candidates to disavow any interest in a higher office. But what it does mean is that we expect them to deal directly with the problems at hand knowing there will be political risk involved.
Along the same vein, from Steven Sample’s book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, is a chapter on "to be President" or "to do President." His focus is on leaders in higher education, but the point has general merit. Like my Lithuanian student raised, is the goal in seeking office to be a state legislator in order to build a resume that could lead to higher office? Or is it to do the job, to help legislate progress, and to actually help bring the change that is obviously needed?
I’ve thought a lot about this and, for me, both my student and Steven Sample have hit on a really important point. As we look for folks to fill key positions, whether in the political arena or elsewhere, we should be clearer about who it is we are looking for and really need. Do we want someone who will be likable, play it safe, appear to be leading, and willing to "just go along" in order to set him or herself up for the next job on the way to the top? Or do we want someone who has the talent, critical thinking, and will to own up to and take on the clear challenges we have, knowing that this direction often leads to less popularity (particularly over time)?
Come November the 8th, the entire Kansas Legislature is up for election. It is our opportunity to decide whether we want resume builders, someone to just be a legislator, or do we want problem solvers, folks to do the job and do what is best for the public? I don’t think it is too hard to decide who we need. The challenges we face are real, and they're beginning to be more fully understood by the public at large. Incumbent Legislators locked in to the Governor’s agenda and endorsed by the State Chamber of Commerce, versus talented challengers ready to take on issues, make difficult decisions, build consensus, and lead—these are the choices we have. Now is the time that we identify who we want to support and help financially and by volunteering. In each race, I think you will find out who the real leaders are: they are the ones who are running for office to solve problems. Our future—the future of Kansas—come January, will be tied to whether problem solvers or resume builders control the majority in the Kansas Legislature. Each and every one of us can make a difference, and there are many problem solvers who will need your active support.