Over the years, many historians have written about the Romans and the ups-and-downs experienced by the Empire due to its leadership.
There were some really crazy emperors like Nero who didn’t fiddle while Rome burned — he was more of a kazoo guy — but really loved to persecute Christians. Caligula is always a fan favorite due to his odd sexual appetites and sadism. Commodus led a life of debauchery and was made more famous by the movie “Gladiator.”
But there were also good ones, too. We all know Julius Caesar as the guy who started the whole emperor thing but he was also a brilliant politician and general. Trajan pushed the territorial limits of Rome to their greatest size. Augustus was an amazing builder and presided over the “Pax Romana,” a period of unparalleled peace in the ancient world.
What I find fascinating is that the Roman system created and bred some amazing leaders. As historians have noted, the ruling elites were a “shark tank” where only the best and brightest could survive to be the emperor.
Say what you want about Rome’s leaders but all of them were driven and powerful people with unquestioned leadership skills and abilities.
That got me thinking — what kind of leaders does the United States produce today?
I think that this question may be at the core of much of the angst over Donald Trump. Recently, Fox News aired a story about some psychiatrists having created a named condition known as “Trump Anxiety Syndrome” to describe some patients’ reactions to our president.
I wonder if some of these poor folks labeled with “TAS” are simply unaccustomed to a leader who does not fit the mold of recent executive leadership?
Our contemporary leaders tend to be cooperators and collaborators. They parse their words and are extremely measured in their communications. They have huge numbers of consulting firms doing surveys to find out what the public wants to hear. And they craft their messages accordingly.
Today’s leaders tend to be reactionary in the sense that they respond to events as they unfold. Rarely does a leader have a plan or a vision and then stick to it.
We are accustomed to leaders lying to us. For example, we know that a politician on the campaign trail will promise us a “chicken in every pot,” knowing full well that they will never deliver.
Today’s leaders are handsome, beautiful and photogenic. No hair is out of place, the makeup is perfect, and the clothing is always perfect for the occasion.
But, how do we handle a leader who does not fit that mold? How would we handle an Andrew Jackson, who had the odd habit of dueling people while in office, or Teddy Roosevelt, who always “walked softly but carried a big stick”?
My goodness, Twitter would go insane with “Teddy Derangement Syndrome” or “Jackson Hysteria.”
Now, we have a leader who also does not fit the current mold. President Trump does not fit our sensibilities of being measured and careful with his words. He speaks his mind, very much like his hero, Andy Jackson.
When Trump promised things on the campaign trail, he meant what he said. He has followed through on nearly every one of his campaign promises. And, yes, he lies about other stuff like what was said and when.
But, who would you rather have in office? A person who lies to you on the campaign trail and never has any intention of doing what he/she says but has a great PR team to make sure the message is consistent?
Or, do you want a person who does what they promise to do while we are trying to select a leader and has the strength of character to live up to those promises — but plays a little fast and loose with minor details? I pick the second person.
I always felt that our recent past presidents, all good men, were more or less swept along by the tide of world events. This happened under both Republicans and Democrats.
Today, President Trump seems to have a plan and a road map for the future. He has the economy moving in the right direction, protects American workers, and confounds his critics. He has broken new ground in foreign affairs and brought the remains of American servicemen home after 70 years.
You may not agree 100 percent with Trump’s roadmap. Heck, I can’t say I do. But, Trump is an unusual leader who is rewriting many of our preconceived notions about the art of leadership.
Much like the Roman leaders of their day. Toga, anyone?
Steve Lunetta is a resident of Placerita Canyon and failed to get through the “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius. Man, that guy was boring. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.