Good leadership is often critical to the performance of any sort of team or group. But increasingly, "failure of leadership" has become a buzzword excuse-phrase for simply not doing one's job.
Some students aren't doing well in school. Those of us over 30 would have been dressed down by our parents, and forced to give up social or extramural activities to study more. Now, teachers are blamed for not "reaching" a student who may simply not be ready to learn—either because he or she didn't have breakfast that morning, comes from a household with abuse or where education is not emphasized, or merely has a bad attitude. The fact that it is the educators themselves who are held accountable for students' grades (instead of the students themselves) only emboldens those students who don't want to do the work and spares the parents who can't or won't take some responsibility for their students' educations.
And the lack of personal responsibility doesn't stop at adulthood. The Washington Capitals have been rather sluggish on the ice, losing games to hockey teams that on paper, at least, the Capitals should beat. Perhaps it's just a bad run. Perhaps some of the players aren't stepping up to earn their hefty salaries. Perhaps some of them have an attitude problem themselves. Alex Ovechkin is a stellar, supremely talented player, for example, but got miffed when his coach, Bruce Boudreau, benched him briefly during a game. Ovechkin probably deserved it (the Caps went on to win the game in question), but what lesson was learned? Boudreau got fired, accused of not "reaching" the players.
And does accountability kick in when someone achieves the distinction of being elected to the House or Senate? Don't count on it. When the so-called super committee failed to reach an agreement on how to reduce the deficit and debt, Republicans immediately blamed President Obama for not showing the "leadership" to force an agreement. That is a remarkable comment from an institution which has been determined, under both Democratic and Republican control, to remind the executive branch of its separate and equal status as a branch of government. But more importantly, the comments display an alarming lack of responsibility. These are members of Congress. They are experienced adults, and most of them are middle-aged. They have college educations, and some of them have law, business, or other advanced degrees. They have smart and hard-working staffs. Can they seriously tell us that they would have found common ground if the president had showed up, finger wagging, and threatened to take away their texting privileges? Or—perhaps more likely—are they disappointed that Obama did not get more directly involved, so they could tie him more closely to their own failure?
We don't have a leadership crisis. We have a crisis of accountability—and maturity.