The 2016 Presidential campaign is already in the news. It seems that the fundamentals of choosing leadership are mostly or totally ignored during the nomination and subsequent election of a president. Maybe no one should be surprised when the candidates who emerge, and the one who gets elected, is ill prepared for what is arguably the most difficult leadership and management job on earth. To choose a president—a checklist is in order.
Presidential elections should be neither popularity contests nor political funding prizes (both of which they are to some extent). The president of the United States of America should have a set of characteristics (“qualifications?”) that can be defined and used as a measuring stick for candidates. This is especially true for the candidates who “throw their hat into the ring” in primary elections.
Sure, there are exceptions that prove the rule to be less than universal. Bill Clinton came from out of nowhere, however if measured against the following list, his success in the office would be less surprising. On the other hand, Barack Obama would be found to be poorly qualified and his performance has reflected that lack of qualifications, relying heavily on the one thing he is good at--oratory (too much).
In both Obama and Clinton’s cases, oratory and persuasive speaking skills, and in some cases, soaring rhetoric, drove their election. Not so with George W. Bush or his father George H. W. Bush—who of all recent past presidents came closest to fitting this list.
Some Presidential Qualifications—A Checklist (Remembering that finding all of these characteristics in a single person is rare.):
- Integrity beyond reproach, held broadly in high regard—a “Good Person” (Character).
- Strong Communications skills, both verbal (in public speaking) and written communications, & an Inspiring, and Persuasive Speaking style, personal presence & bearing.
- Executive Experience in Management & Leadership of a sizable, complex entity (other than a political campaign) and the ability to lead under pressure with a “Cool Head and a Steady Hand” (Temperament)
- Governmental Policy & Operations knowledge and experience—Domestic and/or Foreign—preferably some of both & a Savvy Politician with the Judgement to compromise provincial or partisan positions for the greater (common) good.
- A Proven Collaborator, able to work with others of different/opposing perspectives to find solutions & a Strong Negotiator, able to stand firm in difficult situations (foreign and domestic) and use Judgment on when to give in/or not.
- Good Name Recognition and Reputation Capital based on past performance and personal history.
- A Patriot! Who respects the Constitution.
Nothing on this list speaks about age, gender, culture, race, background or political ideology—or party affiliation. It is a daunting and demanding list, appropriate for a daunting and incredibly demanding position.
Colleagues of mine weighed in with a few different thoughts: "whether I think about my own experience as a citizen or read the literature on the history of the presidency, I come to the firm conclusion that the most important qualities of a president are CHARACTER, TEMPERAMENT and JUDGMENT." I agree with that, but while those are necessary, are they sufficient?
How to choose a leader for this daunting job is a challenge in that both "trait based" and "transactional based" leadership approaches have flaws. One relies too heavily on the named "traits," without adequate regard to how that leader goes about getting things done--or not. The other, "transactional" approach, focuses on getting things done /process, but can overlook serious deficiencies in how things get done—due to the traits such as character/integrity, and/or culture "fit."
Whichever theory of leadership you ascribe to be the best, both kinds are necessary, to be a truly successful leader. Now, how do we find that kind of president? I contend that it is important to start somewhere solid.
If the laundry list of candidates currently being mentioned is measured against this checklist, many of them fall off the list with lightning speed. That is as it should be. Typically Senators or Representatives lack executive experience (that Governors have) simply due to the nature of their past duties and successes. The presidency is an executive office, and in this regard governors have this experience and members of (typically) Congress do not (unless it was gained prior to running for office).
However, governors usually lack foreign policy insight and experience, which Senators have due greater exposure (in Committees) to national issues and especially foreign policy matters, which add to their expertise in a way that state-focused governors simply don't have.
Military officers and CEO’s often have proven leadership experience, but in one case it is “command leadership” (Follow orders, or else.) and in the other case it sometimes is leadership derived from “organizational position” (I’m the boss, so do what I say.)
Both of those leaders must make a large cultural adaptation when leading as the top executive of a governmental unit. The staff of a president may be compelled to follow orders, but most of the other people s/he must work with must be persuaded, or otherwise convinced to work with and support the president. This has, no doubt, confounded Barack Obama for all his time in the White House.
There is no job description that adequately can describe the presidency of the USA in a comprehensive manner. It is too immense, too complex, too situational—subject to myriad outside influence, and yes, influenced by public opinion and vulnerable to personal vendettas. In fact, one wonders why any human being would want such a job. But they do…in fact a surprising number of humans aspire to an enormously difficult, 24/7/365 pressure packed, thankless job that doesn’t even pay very well (on the surface anyway.)
How do we choose a president? Back to the start: to choose a president—a checklist. Before you choose your short list of aspiring presidential hopefuls, use the Checklist above, and rate each person on a 0 to 10 scale on each item, where 0 is “none” and 10 is “meets completely.”
Then add it up, and encourage the winners; dump the losers; and finally, as the race unfolds, choose whoever your "gut" says is the best one, cast your (one) vote, and support the candidate of your choice.
- MAYBE THUNE OR PENCE?
- WOULD BARBOUR RUN?
- NOT ROMNEY or RYAN