To 2014 — and aspirational leadership

Jeff Neuman / MCT

This is my favorite time of year. For my family it is a Christmas celebration, and once we unwrap ourselves from the stress of this season, we sit back in silent reflection, giving thanks for what we have while ready to toast to a wonderful New Year.

A few things would really make 2014 a great year. For one, we should seek out aspirational leaders who attract rather than attack people. The acrimonious environment enveloping government at all levels has to stop because it is widening our political divide and damaging confidence in our ability to successfully face challenges.

It is so easy to express what we are against and to assign blame for anything. Finding leaders who will accept responsibility for their actions and show us their business plans prior to making them law would be a godsend.

We need to play to our strengths rather than to our weaknesses. We know that capital is cowardly. It’s well known that when times are uncertain, we see the flight of capital to overseas tax havens. It is calculated that $21 trillion sits in these havens protected from the hands of populist leaders who tend to want to spread the wealth of others instead of helping others create wealth as well.

Venezuelan economist and business executive Tulio Rodriguez, president of Kores Corporation insists that we lose a great potential in critical investments because of the political and fiscal uncertainties of our times.

“If we develop sound policies that give security and stimulate this capital, without a doubt the United States would greatly benefit, as would the investors in these new stimulated markets,” he told me.

But that is not all — we do not seem to fully understand the importance of globalization. The global citizen of today is born in one country but is generating wealth in many others. It is what the late Steve Jobs wrote about in his biography detailing a meeting a group of the most successful entrepreneurs had with President Obama. The president asked what could be done to bring back the kind of manufacturing jobs that once existed in the United States. “Nothing,” Jobs replied. “Those jobs are never coming back.”

There is a good reason for that, we cannot compete against the very inexpensive labor that Asia provides — but that does not mean we cannot compete.

If the global citizen of tomorrow is increasingly one who speaks multiple languages and is willing to work on different continents, we can do that as well and more. If we continue focus on continuing to lead in technological creations and advancement, we will be playing to our strengths. By changing some regulatory policies that impede growth, some factories can come back home with the additional benefit of being closer to the markets they serve.

Globalization means boundaries will get more difficult to define. “The concepts of nations, borders and interests will have passed to a level whose definition will be more complicated than it is now,” says Rodriguez. This means, among other things, that immigration reform is critical to the economic competitiveness of the country.

U.S. immigration has a complicated history. While many of us can document that our families arrived here legally, many of us cannot simply take it on faith that our ancestors who did not arrive on the Mayflower had proper papers. The fact is, immigration is a way of life and a boon to our economy, but we have to take proper control of it to enhance its many benefits.

First, we have to address the fact that we have around 12 million people who live and work in the shadows. We need to make residents of these people who are an integral part of our economy so that someday they can aspire to citizenship. As they are lifted from the shadows they will prosper further, and our communities will benefit from their increased success. “Dreamers” have to become citizens now that they share our American DNA.

Aspirational leadership can take us there, to a country with renewed respect for the “brotherhood of man” rather than Big Brother, to a country secure in its place in the world and one that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of the individual.

So here is a well-deserved toast to 2014: May we find the strength and wisdom to do what is right for our families and community, thus ensuring that the blessings we cherish today are there for our children and grandchildren to enjoy tomorrow.

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