I have spent more than 35 years coaching and advising leaders around the world. Here are some of the things I have learned over the years that may help your thought process as you formulate your own decision for whom to cast your vote.
· Character and integrity are not situational. Good leaders live their lives as if they were on CCTV 24/7. They are examples that inspire others to raise themselves up to be the best they can be. The presence of, or lack of, character and integrity are pervasive and ever-present. It is not possible for someone of character and integrity to act without them. In addition, these are two aspects of who someone is that cannot be improved by coaching.
· Intelligence can become toxic. Unalloyed by common sense, intelligence can create existential threats, e.g., the technology meltdown in the stock market and the financial crisis, as well as the failure of many companies including Enron and others too numerous to list here. All of these situations were products of toxic intelligence, which leads us to the next point.
· The curse of the alphas. Alphas are smart, driven, accomplished, and talented people. The curse they all live with is what psychologists refer to as self-enhancement bias, which in everyday life looks like this: Sometimes they think they know more than they actually do or they think they are more capable than they really are. When an alpha does not have the self-awareness and discipline to see this and hold it in check, bad things can happen, which leads us to the next point.
· Intellectual curiosity coupled with humility. Good leaders are always in search of the truth. Period. Ideology and dogma are anathema to the good leader in the 21st century. Change, whether potentially good or bad, comes too quickly and from far too many directions in the 21st century. Good leaders know they must be open to new thinking and new approaches. They must be humble enough to recognize their limitations, to encourage those around them to speak up, and to listen, even when the message is counter to a current belief. Leaders who are devoid of intellectual curiosity and humility soon find themselves surrounded by people who have nothing to say.
· Caring. We know through many studies that have been done that the most reliable predictor of a lasting relationship, one that nurtures, inspires and endures the trials and challenges of life, is one that has caring at its core. Good leaders realize this and demonstrate it daily. I once asked the CEO of a very successful global financial services company what his personal vision was for the company. I will never forget what he said. “I want this institution to be a place that my employees want their children to work and for us to offer products and services they would want their parents to use.” This is caring.
This election deserves all the critical thought one can muster in deciding for whom to cast one’s vote. We must force ourselves to go beyond the obvious, easy, and attractive explanations to uncover the truth as best we can. I’ll close with a quote from a distinguished 20th century historian and diplomat that I think elegantly describes the situation in which we find ourselves today and serves as a clarion call for critical thinking.
“The truth is sometimes a poor competitor in the market place of ideas – complicated, unsatisfying, full of dilemmas, always vulnerable to misinterpretation and abuse.” ― George F. Kennan