President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Eric Holder and a few other top administration officials gave a nod to quintessential leadership this week by giving back a portion 0f their salaries as U.S. federal government worker furloughs begin to take effect from the sequestration that began March 1, 2013.

U.S. President Barack ObamaPresident Obama will write a check for 5% of his salary to the U.S. Treasury each month,Secretary of State John Kerry while Secretary Kerry will donate his 5% to a charity that helps U.S. State Department employees. Attorney General Holder will write a check to the US Treasury for 14 days worth of his annual salary. Details of how the other members of the president’s Cabinet who are forfeiting a portion of their salaries have not been finalized.

While the actual amounts on money these three people in U.S. leadership positions is small, the symbolism of their gestures – and the quintessential leadership statement they make, is large. And the example they’ve set for the rest of those in leadership positions in the U.S. government is powerful.

To date, I have not read of anyone in the U.S. Congress following President Obama’s, Secretary John Kerry’s, Attorney General Holder’s, and the other Cabinet members’ examples by giving back a portion of his or her salary.

I have always found it interesting that time and again the United States Congress shows how devoid it is of quintessential leadership. While the governing body itself is a chaotic and ineffective mess, they routinely give themselves pay raises – while the people they supposedly represent continue to lose jobs, homes, and sometimes families because of the global economic crisis, which the U.S. Congress had no small part in contributing to because of all the financial lobbying money backing many of its members – and make sure they have the best of health care, consistent income, and guaranteed retirement. 

I doubt this was what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they spelled out the three branches of U.S. government in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution. What was supposed to have been a legislative body made up of the people, by the people, and for the people has become a cloister of the most wealthy and connected, by the most wealthy and connected, for the most wealthy and connected.

As with every human political system, the Grand Experiment was doomed to descend to its present state because of ever-present human nature, greed, and selfishness, and the inability of human beings to always strive to successfully go through the narrow gate of quintessential leadership consistently and continually.

As quintessential leaders, we should always be mindful that we are human beings too and we must always be checking our own positions as leaders, making sure that our intents, our attitudes, our motives, our actions, and our words are meeting the higher standard of quintessential leadership.

Have we done our check today?

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