The world has been abuzz for the past week about the governor of Alaska, Mrs. Sarah Palin, who is the Republican VP candidate with Senator John McCain. There has been a lot of stuff flying around as people attempt to know her, to understand her and to size her up as a possible leader of the free world.
I listened to her speech on Wednesday night and drew some conclusions about the way we value leadership and assess its potential. See what you think…
- Public leadership is flashy and unstable. (See King Saul) How people present is not always a good indicator of how they lead. There are numerous examples of that. Yet, as a society, we gravitate to the public persona of leaders who make us feel good, who remind us of pleasant past memories, etc. The true components of one’s leadership are not always visible and the less visible they are, the more concerned we should be.
- Choosing leaders in media driven campaigns is almost always flawed. (See Samuel–David) The smart minds of Mr. McCain’s staff understood the power of media when they kept the attention on the “motherhood” of Sarah Palin. Such emotional pings resonate with average people like the electorate. Ronald Reagan’s staff was exceptional in positioning him at points of high visibility and remembrance. His words were framed in a context which set the stage for good review. They will do the same with Governor Palin. The images of her daughter licking her hands and brushing down her baby brother’s hair is one example.
- Past records do matter. (See Absalom) The longer I lead and the more I choose other leaders around me, the more attention I am giving to past records of leadership. What people have done, they typically will do. I know people change and mature and that must be a factor but with some reasonable accuracy, you can predict how one will lead by reviewing how he/she has led in the past.
- Influence with others ebbs and flows depending on how the argument is framed. Following Denver, the Obama campaign got a 15 point bounce in the polls. After last night, the same polls reflect a virtual tie…how can so many people change their minds on such a critical point in seven days? It occurs in how the argument is framed and the saturation of media coverage. Decision-making is often transitional with most followers…in truth, they could go either way. A good leader must have a solid vision of the plan and understand how the dynamics of influence shift occurs.