A Pledge to Work Together: If Only That Were True

The 2014 elections resulted in the control of the Senate shifting from the Democrats to the Republicans. With this shift, the Republicans now control both Houses of Congress. But, the Democrats still occupy the White House and the President has the power of the veto. Based on these election results, we have a another partisan political standoff and if there is any chance for this Congress and President to accomplish anything, they will have to compromise or otherwise we will face two more years of doing nothing regarding the major issues of the day.
The President and leaders of the Congress all proclaimed that the American people have spoken and they want their elected representatives to work together to solve the problems facing the nation. Both sides immediately took to the media and pledged to work together. But, in the same breath the President stated that he was moving ahead on issuing an executive order regarding immigration while the Congressional leaders stated that one of their top priorities was to repeal the Affordable Care Act which is perhaps the land mark legislation that defines this President’s legacy. Consequently, the old partisan maneuvering and party politics permeated the very newscasts where the Democrats and Republicans were pledging to compromise. The honey moon is already over and the big loser is the American people. If compromise and moderation fail to take hold, then the far left and far right will push their radical agendas and attempt to regain control of their respective parties. The posturing for the next election in 2016 will begin in earnest.

Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a director of a human resources office in the Department of Defense. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. The book also explains how to deal with poor performing leaders before they cripple an organization. For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA,” visit
http://PaulOkum.com/

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Americans Need Another Choice On the Ballot: “None of the Above”

As the 2014 mid-term elections mercifully come to a close on November 4th, Americans have been subjected to campaigning by incumbents and challengers for an intolerable amount of time. We’ve been bombarded by destructive partisan messages or attack ads that paint each candidate as inept and untrustworthy. Large sums of money have poured in from big donors to finance these campaigns and ensure that Congress will be the best that money can buy. Despite a Primary process, we are for the most part stuck with the candidates that each party backs as its nominees to run for office. What the leaders of the Republican and Democratic Party’s don’t seem to understand is that if just half of what these negative attack ads say are true, then at some point, Americans will come to the conclusion that none of the candidates deserve their votes. Dissatisfied with their choices many Americans will simply not vote or if they do vote, they will vote for the candidates who are perceived as the lesser of two evils. What a sad commentary on our Republic!
We need to change the ballot to allow Americans the option to select “None of the Above” and thereby say to the Republicans and Democrats that we are not satisfied with any of the candidates on the ballot. And while there are occasional third party candidates, most of the votes that go to these individuals are protest votes against both the Republican and Democratic candidates. If we are committed to electing quality candidates and improving the leadership in the Congress and White House, then we will figure out the mechanics of how to provide for a second round of voting if “None of the Above” wins the most votes. One option is to adopt the British procedure of limiting political campaigning to one month. This would provide ample time to schedule a second round of voting. Bottom-line: as Americans, we need the power to say “None of the Above” to political parties.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a director of a human resources office in the Department of Defense. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. The book also explains how to deal with poor performing leaders before they cripple an organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA,” visit
http://PaulOkum.com/
http://PaulOkum.WordPress.com/

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Failed Leadership at the Highest Levels of Government

The botched roll out of the Affordable Care Act(Obama Care) by Health and Human Services, the inappropriate targeting of certain political groups for audit by the Internal Revenue Service, the shamefully long wait times for veterans to receive care from the Veterans Administration, and the failure of Homeland Security/Secret Service to ensure the protection of the President and First Family have all combined to reveal a frightening lack of leadership by the appointed Cabinet Secretaries or Directors of each of these high level organizations. The vetting process that the President and Congress employ has major shortcomings. What has been revealed is that the nomination and approval proceedings are placing individuals into key leadership positions that do not possess the level of leadership talent required to lead these important organizations within our Federal Government. The appointed senior leaders in each of these organizations have an obligation to establish an environment and culture that ensures the accomplishment of their assigned missions while at the same time maintaining the well-being of their respective workforces. To do this, it requires these appointed leaders to become familiar with the current internal structure and policies of their respective organizations to include being aware of any inspector general findings, ethics issues, and general employee complaints to gain an understanding of the organization’s culture and performance. Given this, these ethical breaches, poor performance, and bad behaviors that now permeate these organizations are an embarrassment and they shake the confidence of Americans in the ability of our government to do its job.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a director of a human resources office in the Department of Defense. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. The book also explains how to deal with poor performing leaders before they cripple an organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA,” visit
http://PaulOkum.com/
http://PaulOkum.WordPress.com/

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Being a Leader is Not Something You Do, it’s Something You Are

Being a leader is much more than just having the title of leader and occupying a leadership position. Leaders are challenged every day to make sound decisions to move their organizations and employees forward. Selecting new leaders is a critically important process. As such, perhaps it would be more prudent to hold any congratulations and pats on the back for the person being promoted into a leadership position for several months to see how the new leader is actually performing. Is the newly selected leader on the way to evolving into a good leader or a charlatan who is agonizingly regressing into an intolerable boss who is doing everything he or she can do to hide a personal lack of leadership ability and talent.
Once a person is placed in a leadership position, the status quo cannot be maintained because everyday situations will arise that call for action requiring leaders to demonstrate their ability or lack thereof to actually lead. Leaders cannot escape the fact that they are in the spot light and their words and actions are magnified. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “People ask what is the difference between a leader and a boss? The leader leads and a boss drives.” When there are good leaders in an organization, you can feel its positive tempo, mood, and tone which combine to create an overall atmosphere that is inviting, relaxed, and supportive. Good leaders set the example regarding how leaders should operate and they have the innate talent to take an organization and the people in it to the next level. Leadership just comes natural to good leaders; it defines who they are as individuals who have the God-given talent to lead. Poor leaders as Roosevelt states are the ones who “drive” their people within an atmosphere and environment of high anxiety, micro-management, and top down decision making. For the poor leaders who lack innate leadership talent, leadership is about personal gains in authority, prestige, and money as they move up the chain of command. To them, success is measured by how far they have come to accomplishing their own personal goals.

Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a director of a human resources office in the Department of Defense. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. The book also explains how to deal with poor performing leaders before they cripple an organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA,” visit
http://PaulOkum.com/
http://PaulOkum.WordPress.com/

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No American Boots on the Ground in the Middle East

America has spent the lives of too many of our military and our American treasure trying desperately to create functioning nation states in Iraq and Afghanistan with only minimal success. Religious and tribal wars are tearing the region apart with no end in sight. Added to this volatile mix is the latest terror group of ISIS. Seemingly out of nowhere, they came bursting out of Syria and attacked Iraq with unbelievable success as the Iraqi army melted away almost without putting up any real resistance. For the pass 10 plus years we’ve been training and equipping the Iraqi army only to witness it being overrun by ISIS, a group that is outnumbered and under gunned when compared to Iraq. It’s time that our leaders recognize that putting American troops in Middle Eastern countries, no matter what the reason, give many of these peoples and countries the opportunity to make us into the foreign invaders and rally radical groups against us. Our very presence gives them a common enemy to hate and destroy.
The solution for the Middle East must be found and applied by the peoples and countries of that region. The United States alone cannot solve their old and deep hatreds. Regarding ISIS, the roll that the United States must play now is to work to build a coalition of countries to destroy ISIS. The boots on the ground need to be Iraqi boots with support from coalition countries and include greater involvement of European countries. America needs to continue its intelligence gathering and aerial bombing. After 10 plus years relying on American welfare, it’s high time the Iraqis mobilize their ground forces to destroy ISIS. Determining how to handle the presence of ISIS in Syria should be done by the coalition.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a director of a human resources office in the Department of Defense. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. The book also explains how to deal with poor performing leaders before they cripple an organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA,” visit
http://PaulOkum.com/
http://PaulOkum.WordPress.com/

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With US Involvement in Multiple Crises, We Need Exit Strategies

When the U.S. decides to get involved in foreign crises, plans are prepared outlining what that involvement will be, what the U.S. wants to accomplish, and what resources will be needed to attain these goals. Such planning efforts are critical to the success of each mission and America’s ability to make the right moves and calculations to deal with foreign crises.
However, what we know from our history is that it’s easier to get into these entanglements than it is to get out. What ends up happening is “mission creep.” The original plans and assessments of resources needed to accomplish these missions grow and expand beyond the initial estimates. This inevitably raises the cost in the lives of our deployed military men and women and the materiel required to support our military and get the job done. And if we do incur any combat related deaths, then there will be an emotional outcry to stay engaged in such crises because we cannot allow our dead warriors to have died for nothing. With each death, it becomes harder to disengage, which can lead to an open-ended policy with no clear cut exit strategy. Once the decision is made to put American “boots on the ground,” it is easy to predict that this decision and resulting actions will definitely experience mission creep that will likely continue our involvement for months, if not years while we watch the American death toll mount and our budgets balloon.
What is too often missing when our nation readies itself to get involved in yet another foreign crisis is the exit strategy or way out of a particular crisis. We focus so much on the way into a crisis we forget that a critical aspect of good leadership is having a clear understanding of what we need to do to disengage. Our exit strategies seem to be that we will stay engaged until the national polls show Americans no longer support U.S. involvement in a particular crisis, or until a new crisis materializes, or until Congress refuses to pay for our further involvement, or until our American combat death toll rises to a number that Americans say we’ve had enough. However, these are not effective exit strategies; rather they are outcomes of an absence of exit strategies.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a director of a human resources office in the Department of Defense. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. The book also explains how to deal with poor performing leaders before they cripple an organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA,” visit
http://PaulOkum.com/
http://PaulOkum.WordPress.com/

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With Crises Everywhere. the President and Congress Go On Vacation

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll dated August 4th indicates that 74% of those surveyed feel that Congress is unproductive while the President’s approval rating has dropped to a low of 40%. These responses and the responses to numerous other polls reflect that a clear majority of the American citizenry has lost faith in a White house and Congress that are mired in irreconcilable differences regarding immigration, a decaying infrastructure, the Internal Revenue Service and Veterans Administration scandals, a widening economic gap between the very rich 1% and everyone else, the costs associated with a growing number of devastating natural disasters, the wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and outbreaks of contagious diseases such as Ebola, to name a few. Against this backdrop of global upheaval, the President and Congress decided to go on vacation. While today’s technology allows politicians to stay informed and connected, it can’t replace open debate and face-to-face discussion regarding the many issues that face the world today. As American citizens, we must demand more from our elected representative. Sometimes vacations need to be cancelled to show Americans and the world that we are open for business; that we understand the urgency and gravity of the issues of the day.
Internally, to be productive, Republicans need to stop being the “Party of No,” and work with the President to hammer out bipartisan agreements. The Democrats need to stop trying to create a federally funded program for every problem in our country. As former President, Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight.” As global issues continue to mount, we cannot wait to the next election for our politicians to start acting like they understand the implication for America and the world if we continue to do nothing in order to gain some partisan advantage in a political campaign.

Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a director of a human resources office in the Department of Defense. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. The book also explains how to deal with poor performing leaders before they cripple an organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA,” visit
http://PaulOkum.com/
http://PaulOkum.WordPress.com/

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