Those who have the very delicate task of advising Heads of State carry the heavy burdens of responsibility and accountability. They have to advise and counsel on matters not only important for the survival of the nation but also crucial for the survival and career of the President or Prime Minister. When expressing oneself on the way affairs of the State should be run, is there a protocol defining what is opinion, constructive criticism or just senseless bashing? In other words, should one tiptoe around the President or is it wiser to be knowledgeable of the issue, informed, forceful, direct and honest?
It is possible that the situation dictates the tone and those advisors or cabinet members choose their battles, so to speak. In other words, one can ignore a press conference gone bad but stand their ground on issues of national security. Is timing important? Should the advisor define the modus operandi from the get go or, perhaps, should he/she allow the Head of State to take the lead in all matters and to impose his/her will at will? That would certainly be devastating for not only the working environment but also for the entire nation that has entrusted its destiny into the hands of an individual perceived to be able and capable.
The reality is that each country presents its own set of rules and historical circumstances. However one thing can be said to be universal, in each country there are forces that collide on a regular basis and there are social groups that manage (sometimes for very long historical periods) to impose their will and to safeguard their interests at all costs and by any means necessary. The Head of State is seldom if ever his/her own person. The realm of influence afforded him/her is quite limited; and, the more advanced the socioeconomic developement of the country, the more limited are his/her powers.
Now, back to my earlier conundrum; what is the proper course of action when one has the most difficult and arduous task of being the President’s advisor? I have narrowed it down to this: there are two kinds of advisors/cabinet members. There are those who have an allegiance to their career and there are those who have an allegiance to their country. Those who belong to the first group follow a logical pattern, they will not say anything to the President that will potentially damage their influence, will eventually cause them to lose ground and subsequently their position. For them, country and national interests are secondary to their own survival. Those who belong to the second group have a sense of duty. Duty to country, a respect for the rule of law and a strict adherence to procedures and policies. They are guided by what they perceive or by what they know to be national interests (perceptions are often wrong, knowledge is not static) and by a noble feeling of patriotism.
Is there an ideal type, you will ask? Who knows? I have been asking myself that question for years? I will say this, I will vote for the type 2 anytime. I will always go with one who is guided and influenced by the greater good, one whose life is dedicated to bettering his/her community and society at large. One who is not blinded by petty personal issues but who takes a long look at the broader picture and makes a difference because when he/she looked carefully, saw him/herself in that picture. Of course, it would not hurt to have a certain level of ambition and to want to advance one’s career. After all, if you are not in office, how will you ever influence policy-making?
Allow me to sum it all up in a very short and sweet advice: When advising the President, know when you’ve said enough and, be mindful of when saying too little might be dangerous. Tell the truth to the president even if it’s going to cost you your job. Better one job lost than a nation endangered.
May all self-serving/power-hungry/money grabbing politicians perish from this earth now and forever.
Cassandra Honorat 12/02/2011