Our national and state capitols are replete with more than enough ideologically crippled politicians. We have a surfeit of Republicans and Democrats, each variety covering the spectrum from dyed-in-the-wool progressive to neo-con. There has always been an additional smattering of (alleged) independents, socialists and libertarians, to which we have recently added some tea partiers for good measure.

These folks have advanced degrees in holding hearings, posturing, pontificating and demagoguery. In the (not so) old days, there was rancor and disagreement, but it somehow seemed less rancorous and disagreeable than much of what we see today. Just 20 years ago, politicians would have at each other on the floor of the legislature and then head out to a local establishment for friendly conversation over drinks and dinner. It certainly doesn’t seem like there’s much of that happening anywhere today.

Americans understand the adversarial relationships and appreciate the checks and balances that they provide. Yet in many of the conversations I have with friends and colleagues, they sense something is missing from the equation, and they struggle to understand just what that is. In my estimation, the element for which Americans are so desperately searching is leadership.

The leadership we hunger for is not political, partisan or ideological. We need representatives who understand the concept of “servant leadership.” Robert Greenleaf, who defined the term, understood the servant leader “is sharply different from one who is leader first.” The difference, he wrote, “manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.”

From health care to deficit reduction to entitlement reform, a little bit of servant leadership would go a long way in restoring some feeling that our leaders were putting people before politics.

Check out more blog entries from David Saltzman.