Choosing Our Leaders

Unless you have had your head buried very deeply in the sand, you know that Election Day is right around the corner.  Everywhere you turn, from your Facebook newsfeed to your water cooler conversations you catch the whiff of Trump vs. Hillary.  Of course, presidential election years are always rife with conflict, but this one does seem to take the cake.  But whether you are debating defending the constitution or parents’ rights versus state’s purview, whether you hear about fact checking or appointing Supreme Court judges, the conversation could get much more simple if you break it down to this: how to choose an effective leader.

The Job Interview Approach

We choose the next President of the United States every four years.  Here’s something Americans do much more often: get a job.  Chances are, you have either been hired, hired someone, or both.  The process of interviewing and hiring the best candidate for a job opening, regardless of field, involves many of the same qualities:

  1. Work history—Does the candidate have a good employment history? What do coworkers say about working with or for that individual?
  2. Dedication—Tough jobs require tough people. Will this candidate work as hard as necessary to get the job done (even if in disagreement with others)?
  3. Adaptability—Oddly enough, when people look to political leaders they often value constancy, but when you look for a job candidate you look for adaptability. While you certainly wouldn’t want a fickle leader of the nation, what about someone who can consider that situations shift and can adapt to a changing political environment?
  4. Creativity—When it comes to hiring on the job, most employers value creativity. We may forget this trait when it comes to political leaders, but truthfully creative problem-solving leads to solution negotiation.
  5. Communication skills—On any job, communication is important, but when you talk about the POTUS, communication includes talking to leaders around the world. A strong candidate can inspire supporters, negotiate a deal, and build trust.  In the job interview approach, take a look a political candidate’s history of successful negotiation and accomplishments.
  6. Curiosity—When it comes to hiring for the highest office in the land, we may have overlooked this important trait. When hiring locally, however, most managers know that you can’t work with a know-it-all.  Curiosity can be tough to measure, but if you look for it you can see it in the questions that they ask and their embrace of things that are new.  People who keep things exactly the same tend to not have curious or creative natures.
  7. Respect for policy—Just like you wouldn’t want to hire someone who would come in and refuse to follow rules, it’s important to choose a leader who will respect “corporate policy.” If you look at it that way, in this case that would be the fundamental laws of the land, such as The Constitution.

The Point of Personality

For many elections now, it seems the biggest arguments tend to be about personality.  Who has the better character?  Who is more charming?  Ever since Nixon was sweating and JFK was smooth-talking, it seems Americans value charisma as a test of character, but the two are distinct characteristics.

While charisma might be evident in some of the points of the job interview approach, such as communication skills, a better test of character might be how well a candidate will perform under pressure.  Charm aside, a good leader has been in tough situations and still accomplished the task at hand.  A good leader can “move mountains,” so to speak, be it in polls or board rooms.

So if you haven’t already headed out to the polls: take a look at choosing a leader like choosing a job applicant, and your choice may be clearer.

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