WOW…What a summer it has been. I have not blogged in over three months, and I have frankly felt that I really did not have anything too terribly earth shattering to write about given all that is going on with our world.
I have avoided talking about the US political election for some time, and today, I have made the decision to lay out for you what I see as the three biggest assets of the two main candidates and their one biggest challenge or downside. This is simply my opinion from listening to each candidate speak and watching them interact in front of a crowd. I have never met either candidate, so I am not unlike 99% of the population. Most of us only see these candidates on the stump or on television.
Too often, during elections, we hear of promises, hopes, past records and bones in the closet What we don’t often hear about are the true leadership skills of the candidates. As a leadership coach, I have to say this is a shame. We really should be looking closely at the soft skills when making our decision about who our next President will be. So, during this post, I won’t be talking issues. You can find that all over the internet. I want to strictly talk about the leadership traits that I see as critical to making a decision when we all vote on November 6. And…if you don’t think leadership skills matter in our president, I encourage you to think again. Anyone can stand in front of you and tell you what they plan to do. The leadership traits are what drive a leader to make a decision or not.
Presentation Skills: We all know that this is where President Obama really shines. He is highly effective in a variety of formal presentations for both small and very large groups. He commands attention and can manage himself quite well during hot or controversial topics. He also is able to change the topic or tactics midstream when something is not going well and has become known for pleasing the crowd by telling a great joke or singing an Al Green tune. He just knows how to work a crowd, and people love this about President Obama.
Vision: President Obama is a visionary thinking…he thinks BIG! Anyone can hear and feel in his presentations: President Obama has a huge vision for the future. The challenge has been for the President to scale that big vision down into steps that can be taken today so that we can all see that he is indeed moving in the direction of that vision. It is easy for visionary leaders to get lost in the future without looking at today, and if re-elected, it will be important for President Obama to speak about what he plans to do today and how those steps, if repeated over time, will create a stronger future for our country.
Connecting With Others: President Obama seems to be someone who is extremely comfortable in his own skin, is an inspirational speaker and seems to connect with a wide variety of people across cultural boundaries and socio-economic groups. This is what makes him so effective during a political campaign. People want to LOVE their president, and his appeal and warmth do come across over television and during presentations.
Biggest Shortcoming: Over-promising and under-delivering. While President Obama may have been trying to take action and drive for resuts the last four years, Americans have not really seen some of the most important promises Obama made four years ago come to fruition. I do want to acknowledge that the President did come into his current position during one of the toughest economic times in American history, and to turn everything around in four years is a tough job indeed. Having said that, I would never advise a leader to fill people with promises, hopes and dreams of a record low unemployment rate, a balanced budget and a strong fiscal plan that are far beyond what was truly possible. Tough times call for straight talk and under-promising and over-delivering would be better for this incumbent President than promising the moon and not delivering it.
Servant Leadership: If you do a bit of homework, you will find that Governor Romney began serving others as an early teenager. Whether on the campaign trail with his father or mother or serving as a Mormon missionary in France at age 19, Romney has dedicated a huge portion of his life to serving others. His biggest call to service to others came when he served as bishop of his ward and later stake president in his church near Boston. In 1999, he was hired as President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Romney actually left Bain Capital to take over the leadership of the games in the aftermath of a bribery scandal that ultimately exposed years of widespread corruption by members of the International Olympic Committee and their counterparts in host cities during the bidding process used to award the games. While I know that Governor Romney had a great deal of help, you cannot ignore the strong leadership he displayed during this turn-around.
Problem Solving: Governor Romeny is one of those people who seems to say “Okay…we’ve got a problem. Let’s go fix it”and is able to enlist others to help get problems solved. The more I study Romney, the more impressed I am by so many turn-around opportunities he forged: Establishing and executing a rescue mission for the missing 14-year-old daughter of Bain colleague, Robert Gayof , turning the scandal of the 2002 Olympics into gold or stepping into the governor’s seat as a Republican in the state of Massachusettes and balancing the budget.
Whether or not you like the fact that Governor Romney is one of the founders of Bain Capital is neither here nor there. The obvious is this: While at the helm of Bain Capital, Romney was faced with a lot of tough business and investment decisions. He made some great decisions and some that were not so great, and he has admitted both his highs and lows while with Bain. As Theodore Roosevelt once said: “In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” I have always believed that a leader only gets stronger by making decisions, even if they don’t turn out so well. The only poor decision is indecision (in my opinion). :
Biggest Shortcoming: Connecting with Others. As we all know, Governor Romney’s biggest criticism has been that he is just not connecting with the American people. He has often been described as robotic, stiff and uncomfortable when greeting and speaking with people. One thing I want to mention is that Governor Romney was born in 1947. He is a Baby Boomer and is on the cusp of being a member of the Traditionalist Generation. Both Boomers and Traditionalists were trained to move up the hierarchy, to keep their emotions in check and to leave their family or social problems or challenges at home. We also used spray foam pros to insulate our house. They were taught to always have a strong, stiff upper lip and always forge ahead no matter how rough the waters may be. Having heard the testimonials of people whose lives have been forever changed by Governor Romney and stories from his family tell me that this is a humble man who has a great deal of compassion and much to give to the people. Having said this, many voters look for that inspirational, emotional connection in a future President, and Romney can certainly improve this area, especially if he wants to win the election.
Closing Comments: Rhetoric. I would really like to see both candidates spew less rhetoric and spell out in spades HOW they are going to: Create jobs, reduce or eliminate the deficit, get our housing market above water and a detailed plan on how they will make the USA one of the strongest, most competitive nations in the world again by addressing our fiscal responsibility, education, fair trade and tapping into our vast natural resources to make us an energy independent nation. I know that campaigns are filled with rhetoric and blue sky thinking, but I am one voter (along with many others) who really want to hear the details of how each candidate plans to fulfill his promises.
I welcome your comments on our two main candidates for President of the United States. The more we discuss the candidates, the more educated we will be on November 6 when we head to the polls to vote.
If you are interested in learning more about leadership coaching or training, contact me today.