No matter what your politics, it’s pretty safe to say that America’s leadership is in a state of crisis. Partisanship is at its peak, and most people are concerned about where the country is headed. The state of the government affects every area of our lives, and it’s important for every citizen to know how they can contribute and step up in difficult times. If you’re feeling discouraged, concerned, or just angry, here’s what you need to know about American leadership and what you can do to make a difference.

What is Leadership?

It’s interesting how the definition of leadership can get either simplified or overcomplicated, depending on the context. A leader isn’t a person with the title of manager, CEO, or even President. It refers more to the qualities of the person at the helm of an organization or district, rather than their title.

Effective leaders are inspiring and motivating. They demonstrate respect for those they lead, and inspire respect in return. A true leader’s job is to create mutually-beneficial circumstances whenever the need arises. They serve those they lead, and also inspire them to be the best versions of themselves.

A true leader is also a master at balancing different needs. Within an organization, that might mean ensuring that employees maintain good morale and work-life balance, while considering the needs of the organization as a whole. In politics, that might mean balancing the needs of the environment with the needs of a manufacturer.

An Overview of Leadership in America

If you’ve been keeping up with the news at all, then you probably know that our national leadership has not been creating healthy compromises that move our country forward. Big problems in our country, like the state of the healthcare system, social issues, and other important topics have stalled out. Partisanship has created rifts within the political system, and a combination of corruption, self-interests, and a system that is no longer inspiring leaders has led to failures in American leadership.

Worse, novelty and charisma have reigned in national elections, rather than a focus on qualities that actually indicate good leadership. “Anti-establishment” has automatically become “good” to frustrated voters. Unfortunately, being a candidate that causes a stir doesn’t mean a person is a good leader—it means that they know how to get attention. The real leaders—which seem to be currently lacking in Washington—are the ones who put self-interests aside and dedicate themselves to serving their constituents.

Challenges Today

Leadership gap or not, politicians are still moving forward with their own agendas. This is throwing many industries into uncertainty. A good example of this is healthcare—rising costs, changes to tax law, and attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have made for turbulent times. Other industries have been affected by new tariffs, and the Supreme Court is facing a challenging shift in membership that has affected the entire nation. These and other challenges will only get worse as long as the leadership crisis continues.

What We Can Do

So what can we, as average citizens, do when our representatives are no longer representing our interests or acting with thoughtfulness and integrity? Here are a few ideas:

· Don’t just complain about what’s going on, complain to the right people. Elected representatives need continual feedback on what their constituents want.

· Volunteer for initiatives that encourage people to vote and run for office. One reason that leadership in the United States has become so volatile is that people are not participating in this most basic democratic process.

· Seek out fact-based information and participate in discussions with others.

· Write letters and participate in peaceful demonstrations. These kinds of campaigns can be an effective way to be a part of change.

· Push for a new system. It’s clear that when partisanship gets to a certain point, our system no longer works. Data today gives businesses feedback in real-time—why should our input be limited to when elections come around? This is a long-term solution that is vital for ensuring underrepresented citizens have their voices heard.

Engaging with the process of improving our leadership isn’t easy—but a democratic process demands that the people speak. And right now, our voices matter more than ever.