The Leaders Notebook

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If You Are Campaigning On Leadership… Let’s See It!

August 10th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Both of the candidates for President have talked a lot about leadership.  Actually that is what they have done most- talk about it.  From a leadership point of view, both campaigns (and so far, both candidates) are a bust. 

The campaign process itself is fundamentally broken, providing more opportunity for sniping and secrets than for information that would be useful to voters who make decisions on criteria other than party line.  If we are choosing a leader, how about showing us some leadership!  No one is asking me of course, but here is my wish list for the campaign:

  • Stop sniping. The bickering that comes from constantly criticizing an opponent’s language, character or integrity says more about you than about your opponent.  No one learns anything about you from it except how petty you can be.  And while a response by Paris Hilton may be entertaining, it adds little to the debate over real issues.  Accept that you, like your opponent are human, which means you will occasionally mis-speak, forget or otherwise open the door for someone to take a cheap shot.
  • Start giving your opponent credit. You are not always right and your opponent is not always wrong.  No matter how strongly you feel about an issue, there is another point of view.  By characterizing your opponent as ignorant, naïve, misinformed or pig-headed because you disagree on issues, you make the debate personal and feed an already polarized society.  There is a huge gap between “I disagree” and “My opponent is an idiot.”  If you are going to talk about uniting the country then understand that no matter what your view, a big part of the population disagrees with you about it.  When you call your opponent naive, misinformed, wrong-headed or politically motivated, you attach that same label to his fans and followers, who you will have to lead if you win.
  • Listen.  Really listen. Listening with an open mind to truly understand is one of the most basic and critical leadership skills.  Show me that you can listen, especially to those who have a different point of view.  Listening solely for the sake of formulating your rebuttal does not count.  As the President you will have to deal with heads of state from both friends and adversaries.  You will doubtless disagree with legislation, proposed policy and decisions made by others.  And you will almost certainly have to deal with constituents whose point of view is different from yours.  Listening does not mean you have to agree.  It means you strive to truly understand.  If you insist on holding onto your point of view without truly understanding another’s, no progress is possible.
  • Introduce me to your team before the election.  The Presidency is not a dictatorship.  The people you choose for VP and for your cabinet matter.  Your choices tell me a lot about what you value and how willing you are to invite multiple points of view into a discussion.  I want to know if you recognize competence, courage and intellect.  Show me that you are willing to invite people onto your team who are smarter and more experienced than you are.  Let me see a cabinet that is diverse in experience culture and point of view.  Will you appoint yes-people or will there be genuine debate in your administration?  Buck the system and tell me who you want on your team before the election.
  • Stick with Patriotism (and give the chauvinism a rest).  The USA is a great country.  But we are not perfect, entitled to a particular lifestyle or the center of the world.  In fact some of the things that make us strong are also detriments to playing a responsible role in the world community.  So stop trying to out-do your opponent by wrapping yourself in the flag or questioning anyone else’s love of country.  There are wonderful things about living in Europe, South America and Asia too.  Show me you love your country, but let’s not make it a contest.  And remember that others love theirs equally.

Anyone else have an idea to reinvent the campaign process?

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