At the time of writing, news of 11 people murdered at their synagogue in Pittsburgh was the top headline; described as a "hate crime." This follows the 14 or more pipe bombs sent to “enemies of Trump” by a disciple from his base.

Most agree the responsibility for these acts falls squarely on the perpetrators. Most agree this is awful and comes from people ruled by hate, not by love. Most understand actions like this should not be politicized and should be condemned by both parties, no matter the circumstances.

Most understand all politicians use rhetoric and there are hypocrites on both sides. It would be interesting to tell a politician about an incident, letting them know who perpetrated it. After they responded, tell them the opposite was really the truth and see if they change their tune. Impeachment is a good example. Many who wanted Bill Clinton impeached think the Trump investigation is a witch hunt.

Listening to President Trump blame “mainstream media” and whine about these horrible events derailing positive momentum he (and he alone) is creating for Republicans in the midterms is disturbing to many and speaks to the mood of our country.

Great business leaders and managers of sports teams understand culture is created from the top. This is one area where “trickle-down” theory has merit. Teams are built from the top down and from the bottom up and if the goal is to perform to optimum potential, most agree working in a positive environment, versus one ruled by bosses who keep their teams in line through fear of loss, is preferable.

That’s why words matter. Leaders ruled by love are inclusive; they don’t just play to their base, instead trying to get everyone on board. If the effort is successful, toxic people go away, because toxicity is unwelcomed by the team. Good bosses find ways to transition toxic people out, calling it a “bad fit." They may not be bad people, but if they aren’t ruled by the principles of the boss, they should find a new situation.

Good leaders don’t endlessly wail about their enemies, never taking responsibility for failure (while taking all credit for successes). They don’t tweet name-calling, humiliate others, or talk endlessly about how unfairly they’re treated. Instead, they take life head-on, fixing through leadership, not by whining, criticizing and blaming others, even those on their own team, demanding loyalty at all cost.

Loyalty is great; we need loyalty, but not at the expense of doing the right thing. Great leaders hire people who are smarter than they are and don’t interfere by micro-managing – instead setting a course, encouraging their team to get the company to the finish line.

Neither do they brag about how smart they are, smarter than all their department heads, regardless of training and background, claiming they could run the accounting department, they know more than the sales manager, and the project manager, even though their core competency might be totally different and their education and experience in those areas nonexistent.

There are issues and challenges arising in all companies and sports teams; a good leader finds bipartisan solutions. Most agree we need border security; open borders with no rules doesn’t meet commonsense parameters; it can be done with kindness and hope, not politicized when pipe bombs are sent by supporters or by using a mass caravan as a weapon to whip up your base, creating doubt and fear that serves one politically.

Trump has a long history of  not disavowing his loyalists, saying things like “there are good people on both sides” – that doesn’t work when you’re defending Nazis or white nationalists who clashed violently with your enemies.

That’s why words matter. To encourage, in rallies, the notion that body-slamming a reporter is good is where it starts. If it is said as a joke, it is a bad one. You can defend the First Amendment, but that doesn’t give license to incite or encourage violence; you get arrested for threatening a president or using the word “bomb” in an airplane, or screaming “fire” in a theater. It’s not funny, it’s not about the First Amendment, and it defines leadership.

While we can’t get rid of rhetoric in politics, the truth and gist of how our leaders use it defines them.

Don’t parents still teach “if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything”?


“There is one tradition in America I am proud to inherit. It is our first freedom and the truest expression of our Americanism; the ability to dissent without fear. It is our right to utter the words, “I disagree.” We must feel at liberty to speak those words to our neighbors, our clergy, our educators, our news media, our lawmakers and, above all, to the one among us we elect president”

— Natalie Merchant, musician and poet (b. 1963)