David Mandel
Chief Executive Officer, OHEL Children's Home and Family Services

Five White Men

Choose your social, ideological or political battleground; racism, sexism, redistricting, mental health parity… fill in your bias of choice. Any one of these words conjures stark images of stigma or prejudice.
People hearing any of these words may relate a personal experience or describe a person or situation they’re aware of.
Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Brown v Board of Education, Roe v Wade, Marriage Equality.

The US Supreme Court has spoken on some of the most significant and contentious social issues affecting hundreds of millions of people for generations past, present and future.

When the Supreme Court in 2013 ruled in favor of major provisions of the Affordability Care Act those in support of Obamacare trumpeted it as a moral victory. These supporters harkened for the country to coalesce and people of all parties should support the law of the land. The ‘other half’ who opposed the legislation should now accept the ruling. An oft used phrase by winning politicians is healing must begin. 

Healing at times is legislated, at times via an extended hand as Pope Francis demonstrated by apologizing to victims of sexual abuse and at times thru introspection as addicts do in a 12 step program. But always thru demonstrated leadership privately or publicly.
The current political divide in this country concerns immigration, health care, energy amongst other issues.

The Supreme Court’s most recent ruling
on a provision known as Hobby Lobby did not sit well with the very same people who heralded their ruling on other provisions in Obamacare just a year earlier in 2013.

What is their response- how outrageous it is for five white men on the Supreme Court to legislate what women can decide. A move is afoot to legislate a change to the decision of ‘the five white men’ in effect to override the Supreme Court. 

I am not weighing in in favor or opposed to the Supreme Court’s decision on Hobby Lobby or on any aspect of Obamacare.
It is instructive to remember that five white men on the Supreme Court also voted in favor of Roe v Wade forty years ago.

Suffice it to say there is a sizable percentage of American women in favor or opposed to this ruling as individuals or as owners of small businesses irrespective of their political affiliations.

Rather my focus is on Leadership the easy path traveled when leading on issues that are at sync with your personal views. And the perils of leading when your views are at odds with your superiors.

On the most fundamental principle of leadership Lord Alfred Tennyson said it best in 1854 in The Charge of the Light Brigade “Ours is not to reason why ours is but to do and die”. Though this poem describes 600 fighting men in The Crimean War it has become a mantra in organizational psychology. Once a decision is reached by policy makers it becomes the responsibility of leaders to implement even if they disagree with that policy.

Children are taught in their civics class that the Supreme Court is ‘the law of the land’. Yet, our country appears to be adding a new divide. Leaders who don’t believe in the seperation of Legislative and Judicial powers.
Into the Valley of Death does march the Supreme Court. After all they made a policy decision, some leaders lament, gives pause to reason why.

About the Author
David Mandel is CEO of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. For more than 50 years, Ohel has provided a safe haven for those suffering in the community. Ohel cares for more than 17,000 individuals in the New York metropolitan area and across all communities offering a broad range of mental health services including outpatient counseling, trauma, anxiety, eldercare, respite and housing.