LI Board Member: What Is A Leader?
October 27, 2010, Arlington, VA—Leadership Institute Board Member and SABER Communications, Inc. President Mike Rothfeld wrote an insightful piece about three components of leadership—planning, preparing, and acting.

Below are Mike Rothfeld’s thoughts on leadership that are shared with his permission.

“Dear Liberty Activist,

Seriously, look behind you.  Is anyone following you?

No, no, this is not some Gnomes of Zurich super-duper conspiracy email.

I mean politically ... is anyone following you?

Because if no one is following you, YOU ARE NOT A LEADER.

And if you are not a leader, then you are not doing what is needed to make a difference.

Leadership has three components: Planning, Preparing and Acting.

Take a minute to think about each one.


General Dwight Eisenhower said, "In war, plans are useless, but planning is essential."

So what is planning?

Planning is researching a problem, determining a solution and figuring out what needs to be done to achieve the desired outcome.

Pin-headed academics, think-tankers and bloggers for the most part camp out here.  Endlessly debating and explaining ad nauseum what MUST be done.  Unfortunately, since they are not leaders, they begin and end here and little or nothing is achieved.


Preparing is the most neglected component of political leadership.

Preparing is assembling the concrete things needed to achieve a plan.

At the top of the list in politics is money.  The old political saying remains all-too-true, "You cannot save the world, if you cannot pay the bills."  And almost EVERYTHING costs money: Computers, pizza for volunteers, paper, postage, gasoline ... you get the point.

Next after money -- lists.  Lists of people who are interested -- or may be interested -- in the issue, movement or candidate you are preparing to help.

Then comes everything else you may need (note how many cost money, or its cousin, time spent learning): Computers, programs, graphic art skills, writing, paper, postage, volunteers, opposition research, etc.

Bureaucrats live in the preparing world.

Too few political leaders spend their time and talent in this critical area.  Through 25 years of political activism, I will say without hesitation that "the failure to prepare is the primary cause of political failure."


Ah, yes, good old action.  Let's go DO SOMETHING, baby, RIGHT NOW!

Bringing your plans and preparations together in real time, at just the right moments and in just the right ways is what action is all about.

Many would-be political leaders freak out here.  You have to SPEND the money, TARGET the Senator, MAIL the letters, SEND the emails ... and you have to do it NOW.  Not ready?  Too bad.  Not sure?  Tough.  Too tired?  Get over it.  Kids have (gag) soccer?  They miss it.

On the other hand, politicians LOVE to act.  Never mind that they have no plan and made no preparations, they are ready to go do something, right now.  Here's a giveaway (a "tell" as gamblers say): Any political or campaign statement that starts with "We need to ..." or "We just have to ..." or "We gotta find a way to ..." is virtually always followed by something metaphysically impossible to achieve.


Leaders bring together all three: Planning, preparing and acting.

For the leader, there is no lying down in the area you are most comfortable in.

For the leader, there is no sloughing off the parts you are uncomfortable doing (you know, like fundraising).

For the leader, there is ONLY the commitment to excellence in every aspect of the work.

So I ask you, Are you a leader?

Best regards,
Mike Rothfeld
Foundation For Applied Conservative Leadership”

The Leadership Institute is an educational foundation whose mission is to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists and leaders in the public policy process. To accomplish this, LI identifies, recruits, trains, and places conservatives in government, politics, and the media.  More than 88,000 people have been trained in one or more of the 40 current programs offered in all 50 states and across the globe since the Institute’s founding in 1979. For more information, please visit: