Assessing the Presidential Candidates as Leaders

Harvard Business Review

April 8, 2008

by Marshall Goldsmith

The current Presidential primary season has dramatically illustrated the unrealistic expectations that are being placed upon today’s political leaders.

For a second, let’s assume that the three remaining major candidates for President are basically good people, who want to do what they believe is right for our country. Let’s assume that all are intelligent and have no desire to gratuitously offend voters.

Not only are all of their words being scrutinized for the slightest hint of bad intent or stupidity, the words of all their supporters are also being scrutinized. Any deviation from politically correct responses (from either the candidates or their supporters) are being used to indicate that the candidates may well be closet racists or sexists. Any lack of knowledge in answering questions is leaped on to indicate that they may well be incompetents.

No wonder Americans have such a low opinion of political leaders at all levels. Almost no human looks good when being constantly viewed under a microscope.

Our 24/7 press coverage has created an environment where a new story is needed every day. If a substantive story is not available, a trivial story is used to fill up the space. The amount of time spent and the emotional tone of reporters is almost always the same – regardless of the degree of importance of what is being said. America has serious challenges. We need to focus on what really matters to our country – not the latest slip-up by a candidate.

My intent is not to use this blog to promote any political candidate. My intent it to help you assess these future leaders and choose the one that you believe can best help our country.
My suggestions for you – as a voter:

– Ignore word games that are being used to trap all three candidates.
– Accept the fact that all three have supporters who may say and do crazy things.
– Assume that all three are decent, intelligent people who want to do what is right for our country.
– Analyze the most significant challenges that will face our country over the next four years.
– Listen to each candidates plan to meet these challenges.
– Choose the candidate that you believe will do the best job.
– Don’t feel a need to crucify the other candidates to prove that yours is superior.