“All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time” General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC. This singular quote shows two critical elements of great leadership and problem solving: The ability to accurately and realistically assess a problematic situation and still manage to infuse a sense of hope and determination in solving and overcoming the quandary. It appears that on multiple levels, contemporary US culture is lacking in either its ability or its resolve to do either. We have created a culture that is not willing to deal with reality but instead, restricts information so that situation either seems more stable than it is, or else seems to present a problem that is so bleak, it seems unsolvable. All the while, we castigate those who attempt to address reality and we criticize those who dare to attempt to present creative solutions.
Chesty Puller’s quote shows us the wisdom of presenting reality for what it is, while demonstrating the will that is necessary to overcome life’s most severe conundrums. Societies do not generally welcome personalities like General Puller’s. We proclaim that we want the truth, while demonstrating an unbreakable unwillingness to handle it. We swear that we earnestly desire solutions while vilifying those who present them to us. Every facet of US society is immersed in this struggle – education, ministry, the military, healthcare are a few examples, but no area of society is untouched by the malaise. The destruction we continue to see in our nation including mass murder, but also extending to the unrelenting ravages of urban violence, reflect s our hesitancy in activating a Pullerian form of leadership and our tendency to embrace a politicized, ineffective style of management that seeks to preserve systems rather than serve people.
If we are to have any chance of effectively dealing with the modern day plagues that besiege us, we must develop a willingness to receive unvarnished, unpoliticized truth whenever it is set before us. Once the truth is understood and embraced, we must have an equal willingness to do difficult work, elevating leaders who will not cower in the face of daunting challenges, but who will instead welcome trials and lead the charge to take on difficult issues with skill, energy and undying hope. The tide of despair can be turned, but only if we face that facts and work towards solutions, and only if we don’t wait until it’s too late.