Here in the U.S., as we get into the depths of 2016, we will begin to evaluate job applicants for the biggest leadership role in the free world. The job requirements represent a laundry list of traits, experiences and abilities. There will almost never be a candidate who personifies all of the characteristics, but the choice becomes a decision between the candidates who get closest to the mark and the ones who are not even in the zone. So, what am I looking for from this individual?
Strategic Vision – It’s about creating a vision for the future; a way forward that does not rely heavily on the accomplishments or failures of those who have held the office in the past 20 years. Describe where you intend to take us. No president is expected to be in the weeds, but they are expected to attract a team of experts and doers to achieve their goals. I would like to see an emphasis placed on a future that takes into account the many changes our society has gone through over the past decade and the presentation of a clear direction forward.
Leadership – This blog is about the art of leadership after all. I expect a candidate to emerge who places high emphasis on the value of their own leadership characteristics and those of the team they intend to surround themselves with. I don’t want the candidate to pander to those of us who view leadership as the key to this office, but I do expect to see and view my ultimate choice as someone who embodies leadership skills essential to the task.
Inspiration – Probably an overused term, but a requirement nonetheless. Along with the first two characteristics described I want to know the candidate will provide some inspiration (call it motivation or a distinct understanding of where their vision will lead us). If you want your eagles to fly, there has to be a component of inspiration involved in the message. The more a candidate merely checks the boxes on the path to the job, the less I understand what exactly they are individually bringing to the table. Anyone can read a list or regurgitate sound bites.
Honesty in all things – Please tell me when we are off the mark. Give a real appraisal of our situations with plausible outcomes. Catering to the need of the masses to hear glowingly about abilities, outcomes, and issues will be our undoing. Tell me where we are and how you intend to get us to your proposed position.
Clear and Impactful Domestic Agenda – I would like the candidate I select to have a clear understanding of his or her own domestic agenda. It should be finite and contain some really limited, but impactful goals, which attacks the greatest of our internal problems (getting our fiscal house in order is pretty high up for me – it leads to economic prosperity). You can’t do everything. In fact, I’m sure the greatest surprise to most presidential candidates is the limitations of their powers upon assuming office. Tackle the biggest and most pressing issues. The nature of the office ensures a weekly dose of the unexpected which will draw on their attention.
Skill of Compromise – Nothing has been more disappointing over the years than the inability of our governing bodies to compromise on important issues. It has become a four-letter word in some circles. I’m no constitutional professor, but I have to believe the original intent of the founding fathers was to allow for competing views to be discussed and evaluated and that each idea would rise and fall on the merit of its content. At the end of the day, big problems require solutions. Sitting on ones hands and hoping the issue will go away or openly stating that you intend to do nothing does not equate to a solution. Please just get the job done. Learn to listen to others and know that your proposed solution is not always the best one.
HIGH International Affairs Acuity – Probably no office in the world requires as nuanced an understanding of international affairs. It would be a plus to see and hear a candidate who understands there is some requirement to at least know some aspects of world history and to express a basic understanding of the cultures, backgrounds and agendas of those on the other side of the negotiating table. This is a field where DEEP INTELLECTUAL THINKING IS REQUIRED. If your plan is to simply rely on the knowledge that your hammer is bigger than others then we can all be guaranteed of unsuccessful outcomes.
Included as a subset of this requirement is a true understanding of our military strengths and our limitations. History has taught us that mere might on the ground against a resistant and dogmatic culture rarely translates into strategic success. It’s a bit of a catch-22, but the relevant point is that military solutions, especially those requiring the insertion of troops, should be a last stage effort following the failure of many rounds of diplomatic attempts to solve the problem. Some problems absolutely require military solutions, but I suspect the growing asymmetric nature of warfare will require more agile solutions in our country’s future.
A tall order indeed, but we deserve nothing but the best and the candidates should know they are being held to the highest marker ever established. The best ideas; the best skills; the most talented players and contributors; the highest ideals, morals and………….an ability to know when you possess virtually none of these skills.
The beauty of our system is that your list will most certainly be different. In fact, even if our list share similarities we will likely come to different conclusions about which candidate embodies the characteristics we desire. What are you looking for in a candidate?
-The Eternal Student of Leadership
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