While in the USA I engaged several ordinary citizens, highly successful business leaders, friends and politicians regarding their Presidential leadership race and other issues. From a leadership point of view I am often asked for my views on it. Here are some simple thoughts on how to judge in broad strokes which one of these two candidates is more capable of leading the USA.
The primary similarity between great leaders does not necessarily lie in their character or personality, though this is important. It lies in the fact that they somehow brought about movement. Hand them a responsibility and they take it forward, create movement towards something bigger and better.
Therefore, in any leadership race where two or more potential candidates are being considered, one of the crucial questions to ask is: which one of them has more proof of successful movement in their past. The more common way in which we usually apply this principle is by looking at their track record of performance. Behind this assessment lies an instinctive realization that the one that has consistently initiated successful movement, will most likely have the capability to transfer their “movement skills” to the next responsibility, and therefore stand a better chance of being more successful. So if a leader has moved some situation once it may be luck; if twice it starts looking better. The more a leader repeats this process the more confident and conscious his understanding of movement dynamics becomes.
Based on this clinical approach it is clear that within the USA Presidential race Mitt Romney has created more successful movement than Barack Obama. He has very successfully moved a business, a state, a failing Winter Olympics, a family and even in his lay church responsibilities over the years he has created successful movement. It is not often that one finds a leader that has created successful movement on several and diverse fronts, as well as turned around something that was destined for failure, like the Winter Olympics – this is what needs to happen to the US economy, as one example. I would therefore not be surprised if success followed him to an election victory and thereafter into the Whitehouse. Then again politics is not always real and fair.
The question is what has President Obama moved successfully? No doubt there are examples within his own family and civil society, but there can be no hesitation in observing that he has not demonstrated as convincingly as Romney that he is a confident “mover”. To make matters more interesting and complex, he managed to convince the American people that he can and will move their country forward successfully. Then, as the opportunity came his way, one of the worst global economic periods struck in full force, making it more challenging for him to succeed. Only an extremely seasoned “mover” would have had the capability to steer the USA somewhat successfully through the turbulent waters of the last three to four years. In essence President Obama demonstrated clearly that he is not an experienced “mover” or leader and that he is in fact cutting his movement ‘teeth’ on something as important as the free world of this planet.
To be a successful “mover” or leader takes much more than being a talented orator, or being charming, or having charisma and even star quality. While these attributes can help, it becomes a “nice to have” when the rubber hits the tar, when it is crunch time and when what all followers want to see and experience is a meaningful difference in their everyday lives.
Of course a given in this analysis is that the leader must have the right direction in which to generate the necessary movement. However, when he has demonstrated successful movement over and over he may also have developed his ability to somehow find what the correct direction is. This too indicates good instincts for successful leadership or movement.
Bottom line is that Americans have one shot at electing a man that can generate much needed movement. I don’t believe Romney will be in a position to make a comeback, age wise, while President Obama, an impressive man in his own right could always return in the future to lead a more healthy country that could absorb someone with less movement credentials.
We are experiencing this same disillusionment in South Africa. Ordinary South Africans on the ground have grown impatient of the charm, audacious promises and motives of political and other leaders, which include leaders with admirable struggle credentials that used to be able to calm the stormy emotions of masses. They want to experience movement that positively impact their lives, though often unreasonably so.
We would do well as a nation to view our own candidates for the ANC leadership race against their “movement credentials” rather than based on emotion, likeability or other hidden agendas.
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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.