Sunday, September 14, 2008

Leadership and the Elections

I am currently taking a class in leadership. It is very interesting and very applicable to the upcoming election in Nov 08 and the candidates. Some thoughts:

One of the books I am reading (The Leadership Challenge, copyright 2007 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., published by Jossey-Bass) claims that all great leaders engage in 5 practices:
  • Model the Way - "To effectively model the behavior they expect of others, leaders must first be clear about guiding principles." They express their values through actions and words (usually in story form). The book also says that "leaders must forge agreement around common principles and common ideals." Perhaps the most poignant sentence is, "Modeling the way is about earning the right and the respect to lead through direct involvement and action. People follow first the person, then the plan." Another part talks about leadership as action, not personality. I disagree and claim that leadership requires both action AND personality.

Some questions I ask myself (and you can ask yourself) about the candidates regarding "Model the Way" are: Have both Obama and McCain clearly expressed their guiding principles? Clearly enough for both supporters AND opposition to understand? (can YOU articulate the principles and ideals of each candidate?) How do they express their values and principles? Have they both forged agreement around common principles and common ideals? Who/What group of people share these principles and ideals? (does everyone?) What direct involvement and action has each candidate taken toward their common principles and ideals? Who do people want to follow (we follow the person first, then the plan)? Plans aside, based only on personality, who would you follow?

  • Inspire a Shared Vision - Leaders have visions and dreams about what could be, along with total personal belief in those dreams. Besides having a vision, the leader must effectively communicate that vision to others. "To enlist people in a vision, leaders must know their constituents and speak their language. People must believe that leaders understand their needs and have their interests at heart." Leaders must have enthusiasm for their vision and pass that on to others.

Have both Obama and McCain clearly expressed their vision of the future, their hopes and dreams about this country? Who are their constituents [ALL Americans]? Do both/either of them "speak the language" of the citizens? How effective have they both been in passing on enthusiasm?

  • Challenge the Process - "Leaders are pioneers ... but [they] aren't the only creators of new [ideas]. In fact, it's more likely that they're not: innovation comes more from listening than from telling." "Leaders know well that innovation and change involve experimenting and taking risks." "Leaders are learners. They learn from their failures as well as their successes, and they make it possible for others to do the same."

How has both Obama and McCain shown that they are pioneers, risk takers? How well has each candidate listened to what the people were saying and took those ideas and tried to make them reality as senators? How has each candidate shown that they are learners? Have they admitted mistakes and failures and shown how they have learned and changed from them? Do they make it possible for/help others to learn and grow from their failures?

  • Enable Others to Act - "Grand dreams don't become significant realities through the actions of a single person. It requires a team effort. It requires solid trust and strong relationships. It requires a deep competence and a cool confidence. It requires group collaboration and individual accountability." "We", is the magic word of leaders, not "I." "Leaders foster collaboration and build trust. This sense of teamwork goes far beyond a few direct reports or close confidants. They engage all those who must make the project work - and in some way, all who must live with the results." "Leaders enable other to act not by hoarding power they have but by giving it away." "Authentic leadership is founded on trust, and the more people trust their leader, and each other, the more they take risks, make changes, and keep movements alive."

Who are the strong relationships of each candidate with? What are the core competencies of each candidate? Do both candidate show cool confidence? Do they express group collaboration and individual accountability? How many times in a speech do they use the word "I" vs. "We?" Has each candidate built trust with people? Which people? Who is on the "team" of each candidate? Does each candidate include EVERYONE in America (because we all have to live the results)? Has either/both Obama McCain shown that they will hoard power, or will they "give it way?"

  • Encourage the Heart - "Leaders encourage the heart of their constituents to carry on" when times get tough. "Genuine acts of caring uplift the spirits and draw people forward." "It's part of the leaders job to show appreciation for people's contributions and to create a culture of celebrating values and victories."

Which candidate do you want to follow when times get tough? Will you blame economic or other problems on the winner, or will you let the winner encourage you? How has either/both Obama and McCain shown acts of caring and uplifting of spirits? How has each of them shown appreciation for others? How do they celebrate values and victories?

The book sums up saying that "Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow." Both Obama and McCain aspire to lead, and they both have followers. But in the end, only one of them can become president. If the winner is not your choice, what will you do? Will you choose to follow, remain neutral, or create dissension?

I do not envy either candidate, because no matter what they say or do, this is a deeply divided country. I believe that we are a country in the midst of a silent civil war, a war being carried out by the votes and money of the citizens. This silent civil war is between conservative and liberal citizens, each of whom want the country to go in VERY different directions. Regardless of who wins, there will be one very upset/angry group who I believe will NOT follow the president no matter what he does. This is disheartening, but reality. We are a split nation with a double personality. In the end, we must all decide what is most important to us, and make our vote.

My most important issue is the respect for life, from conception to natural death. I wish both candidates were fighting for my view, but then some of the population would have no one to represent their beliefs. Sad but true.

No comments: