Leadership and the U.S. Presidential Election


In the past several months, the question that I have been asked most frequently is: “Harry, what do you think of the current U.S. presidential election?” Wow! Now that’s a pretty loaded question! My usual responses have been:

1) “You cannot sell what is happening as fiction.”
2) “In a country with 360 million people, THESE are the top candidates? Really???”
3) “How do you explain what is happening to people in other countries who think we know what we are doing?”

Well, when I started writing this blog post last week I was in a more “reflective” mood. This was mostly due to the fact that my son, Daniel, and I were up in northern Wisconsin at Camp Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan for the week with 200 boy scouts. Fresh air, long walks, and late night talks around the campfire definitely helped me focus on trying to be “self reflective” and “balanced”. Add to the mix that I had just finished reading an interesting biography of Winston Churchill titled “The Churchill Factor” by Boris Johnson. I must admit that reading about Churchill and the leadership role he played in the Second World War significantly raised my expectations regarding what leadership is really all about.

Okay, so back to the question: “Harry, what do you think of the current U.S. presidential election?” I think we are in desperate need of a real values-based leader. Rather than taking sides (although my comments below will probably divulge my biases), let me summarize my “opinions” regarding what I believe is needed based on my “Four Principles” and then you decide:

1) Self Reflection: A leader should be self aware and have strong values. A leader should take the time to understand what they stand for and what is their purpose. They should reflect on what kind of leader they want to be and what example they want to set for others. (Regarding the current candidates…hmmmm…okay I won’t say more.)

2) Balance: As I have stated in previous blog posts, a values-based leader desires to understand ALL SIDES of the issue. They are focused on “seeking to understand before they are understood”. They truly care about the opinions and beliefs of others. They are not trying to be right…they are focused on trying to do the right thing. (Regarding the current candidates…again, you decide.)

3) TRUE Self Confidence: This one is very clear…you know what you know, and you admit what you don’t know. As I mention to students and executives, if you have “TRUE self confidence”, you openly admit when you don’t know the answer, and you honestly confess when you are wrong. Most people usually don’t relate well to people who know everything and are never wrong. (Wow, I am beginning to understand why the current election is so confusing for many people 😉 )

4) Genuine Humility: I find this principle easiest to explain by asking people “How did you get to where you are today?” The two most frequent responses are: “I worked very hard, and I have several skill sets”. I remind students and executives that yes, hard work and skill sets are helpful, but let’s not forget four other possible reasons for success: “luck, timing, the teams that have helped you be successful, and for some of us, a strong spiritual orientation”. It’s important for a values-based leader to never let it be “all about me”. It is important to “check your ego at the door”. (With regard to the current election, I think this could be “checkmate”!)

I hope everyone is having a great summer!

One comment

  • I asked a German tour guide in May what the German people thought of our Presidential campaign. After a tactful caveat that “he could not speak for all the German people”, he said: “My friends and I think that the leading country in the free world could do better.”

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