Four Leadership PROOFS From the 2016 Presidential Election

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One of my favorite subjects in high school was Geometry. I loved the idea behind a geometric proof, using facts and logic to solve complex problems. In case you have slept a night or two since high school, remember that proofs are commonly written in two columns, where the statements are listed in one column and the reasons for each statement's truth are listed in another column. I am going to use a bit of a different format - putting the proof at the top of the paragraph in bold and then the supporting thought below.

As I stayed up watching the election returns pour in last Tuesday night / Wednesday morning, like many of you I tried, and in many respects am still trying, to get my head around how a billionaire womanizer with an upscale Manhattan address was able to lose the popular vote and become President of the United States. You have to love this country! No reality show TV producer would ever buy that script.


Leadership Proof 1: Followers Know What They Want

I can still hear my “Change Theory” professor in graduate school define leadership as change. Dr. Freemyer, I think your definition of leadership certainly has proven itself out in this last election.

Leadership is about change. Management maintains the status quo.

If you want someone to lead in your organization then the assumption is that you are expecting change and growth. When you come back and examine the status of the organization they are leading you expect to find things both different and better. If you do, you pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you made a great choice.

If you want someone to manage in your organization you are expecting things to run effectively and efficiently just as they are. You might be looking for some incremental types of gain, but for the most part, you looking only for things to stay the same.

President Obama actually helped to defeat Hillary Clinton twice. The first time in 2008 by getting the Democratic nomination over her and the second time by endorsing her as the candidate to continue his legacy.

The people of this country wanted change, and he put her in a management position.

If you want change, pick a leader; if you want continuity, pick a manager. If you want confusion, tell them to do both.

Leadership Proof 2: Leaders Must Listen Closely

Someone had to win and someone had to lose. Competition has been the way our world has worked since man was evicted from the Garden of Eden. The competitive nature of our world lends itself to the survival of the fittest. (So now the question becomes is anyone still reading this since I have evoked both creation and evolutionary thought in the same paragraph?). Anytime there are two (or three, or four), and we are asked to pick one of them, the nature of the choice will deem one victorious over the others.

Competition fires up our reptilian brain, the amygdala. When we are competing it is very difficult to remain rational and think. Proof of this is my blog last week, which admittedly wasn’t very good…because I was trying to write and watch the Cubs win the World Series at the same time. Once the adrenaline and cortisol start flowing in our blood, the brain goes into survival mode, where things like listening and curiosity are left for calmer and more peaceful times.

Trump was able to hear both the elitist special interest message of his rival and how well over 50% of Americans were feeling marginalized.

He heard the message of the voters. While the pundits and press kept pushing him for policies, he knew the American people were policy and executive ordered to death.

He resisted telling the people what he would do for them and just listened to their pain.

Leadership Proof 3: Just Because You Are Out Front, Doesn’t Mean You Are A Leader

I would like to still think that character matters more than anything else in leadership. That the relational virtue ship that sails on grace, love, peace, hope, humility, and mercy has not been sunk by the cannonball of self-aggrandizement.

Character rose to the front and center of the 2016 presidential election this year. However, it wasn’t character that became the deciding factor in this election. How could it be? Character had no place to shine for either of the nominee’s of the main political parties. It was a very tough election for character to matter because on the surface the choice that those who went to the polls had to decide between was a womanizing racist and a lying self-centered cheat. Both probably fit a classic definition for being considered foolish.

Character got set aside in this election. Character didn’t matter because neither candidate could display it. Just about another democrat eligible to run for President could have beaten Trump. Just about any Republican not named Bush could have beaten Hillary. No matter how hard the candidates tried they couldn’t show the other was unfit for office. Character just didn’t matter.


Leadership Proof 4: Visions Fit on T-Shirts (or Red Hats)

How easy it is for us as leaders to get enamored with our own brilliance. To over think everything we do. To assume that because we are smart and we say it, that those we say it to get it.

How easy it is for us as leaders to get caught up in our own ideas and to stop listening to the people whom our leadership has an effect upon. That just by the sheer will of our status, personality, birth order, or some other sociologic idiom that people are going to allow us to keep our leadership no matter how we treat them.

People don’t need a vision for status quo. If your organization is in a flat part of a growth curve, you don’t have much time before your followers start losing interest in what you have to say.

I work with clients all the time who have these elaborate visions that are paragraphs in length that explain in detail every aspect of the dream they have. The adage that sums it up best for me is that it isn’t a vision people can rally around if it won’t fit on the front of a T-shirt. If you can’t get your vision on the bill of a cap or the front of a T-Shirt your message isn’t clear enough yet.

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