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What Can Business Leaders Learn from This Election?

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC) has surveyed its global membership to determine what leaders can learn from the U.S. election campaign now in progress.

SAC CEO Alan Weiss, Ph.D. notes, "Four points emerged across borders as primary learning thus far." They are:

  1. You can't position yourself based on a single initiative or asset. Rudy Giuliani's massive miscalculation in Florida and his resultant departure from the race demonstrates that one must at least attempt to engage multiple constituencies.
  2. Graciousness is a strong asset, far more so than "alpha" behavior. Barrack Obama's patronizing comment to Hillary Clinton, "You're likeable enough, Hillary," when a reporter mentioned to her that she wasn't well liked, backfired on Obama and probably contributed to his upset loss in New Hampshire. Truly powerful, confident people can afford generosity of spirit.
  3. Listen to your inner beliefs. The press continually counted John McCain out of the fight and talk show comedians used him as an easy target. But he stayed true to his own philosophy and didn't waver on key positions. Now, he's a front-runner.
  4. People follow authenticity and setbacks more readily than an impervious fa├žade and suggestions of perfection. Hillary Clinton's eyes welling up convinced many voters that she was "real" and just like them underneath the "spin" and the cameras.

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach and president of Working Resources, a strategic talent management firm in San Francisco, CA. He specializes in emotionally intelligent leadership development with executives and lawyers. He offers these insights:

"There are a number of lessons for business from our presidential election process. Anything is possible and whatever got you here might not get you there. Success takes a lot of hard work by top talent collaborating on executing a winnable strategy. You need to have great leadership on your executive team and leaders at every level of the organization. Leaders need to be optimistic and change-resilient because the business environment can be quite unpredictable.

"You need to listen to your customers and what they want. Businesses need to be learning-agile, and embrace and adapt quickly to change. Most importantly, you need to get the attention of potential customers and build relationships based on trust. Businesses should be encouraged that people apparently are eager for change, and the global marketplace is looking for an America with a mindset that is more open and inclusive."

Weiss concludes: "It's am myth that people don't like to change. This election demonstrates that it's often highly desirable. That means that your employees and customers will embrace change IF you are leading from the front, lighting the way."

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