While preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, I learned a hard lesson in leadership I’ll always remember.
During a live fire exercise using real bullets, a soldier in the platoon I led accidentally discharged his weapon, firing off 10 rounds and almost hitting our battalion commander.
I found myself on the receiving end of the commander’s wrath, and was nearly relieved of my command. While I hadn’t fired the shots, I was accountable for the soldier who had. In response, I did everything I could to ensure nothing like that ever happened again. We changed procedures, double-checked weapons and sharpened our discipline. I took responsibility.
I learned a valuable lesson that day, one that is ingrained in every military commander, at all levels: you are accountable for everything that happens in your unit, and your actions will have consequences. Period.
That’s a lesson our commander-in-chief, President Obama, seems to never have learned; he prefers to dodge responsibility, declare his ignorance of what’s going on or just to outright mislead the nation. And the president is now paying the price for his unwillingness to embrace the ethic of accountability.
Most recently, we’ve seen the president’s accountability problem in the disastrous rollout of his signature health care law.
When the Obamacare website was revealed as an expensive, dysfunctional boondoggle at its launch, the president professed to be surprised. You might have thought the president would be riding herd on his top policy priority to ensure it would work as promised, but he kept himself out of the loop. That’s hardly the mark of an accountable leader.
Then, as Americans began receiving notices that their insurance policies were being cancelled as a result of Obamacare, critics reminded the president of his repeated promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan…no matter what.” (A widely viewed web video compiled by New York magazine edited together some two dozen instances of the president making that promise between 2008-1012.)
An accountable leader would have had admitted that he had, at best, misspoken or been mistaken in making such a categorical promise, as hundreds of thousands of Americans nationwide were finding their coverage is in jeopardy. But President Obama? He attempted to retroactively revise his previous promise, and then when that failed, offered up a grudging apology to NBC News.
It’s not just health care. Throughout his area of executive responsibility, President Obama has repeatedly failed to take accountability for his words and actions.
For example, when the president nearly blundered into a new war in the Middle East through his clumsy declaration that Syria had crossed “a red line,” he tried to deny he’d ever made such a statement.