You have a choice
Over the coming days, weeks and months we will see several key elections across the globe. Presidential elections in the Philippines; a Federal election in Australia; local elections throughout the UK; key mid-term elections in the US; and many more.
All of these pivotal events got me thinking about what we should really look for in our leaders. The people that we choose to take forward our respective countries and represent us as people and societies.
There is something quite bizarre about politics and elections. Science tells us that we all make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally. With politics and elections this seems to be multiplied 1000x over. We will see people (from all sides of politics) arguing vehemently over key points where they will selectively choose to believe or ignore any facts presented to them.
The one common factor in all elections is that we are talking about people and human beings. Yes, I said it, politicians are human beings too. So, when we look for our leaders, I encourage you to look deeply at the person you are electing rather than just the campaigns and soundbites. Who is this person standing in front of you and what do they stand for?
I genuinely do not care who you decide to vote for, I am just asking that you make a considered decision about the person you are voting for.
Elections are not the only time we choose leaders
There are many other times in our lives that you make choices about who you will follow. This could be when you are sitting in that job interview trying to get a read on the type of leader that is sitting across from you (always remember job interviews are a 2-way activity, they are interviewing you and you are interviewing them). It could be deciding on who will be the head of your local body corporate of the buildings you live in. It could be selecting who will be the captain of your local basketball team or the captains of your school.
In each case, these decisions should be taken with due consideration. As the ancient Roman adage (and Peter Parker's Uncle Ben) would attest "with great power comes great responsibility".
When you step forward for that next election decision, regardless of its level, take a moment to consider what kind of leader you are looking for and whether you would be proud that they represent you?
Here are some characteristics you may look for:
Are they "in it" for the right reasons?
In defence of politicians for a moment, I am going to go out on a limb here and tell you that most of them (with a few notable exceptions) enter politics with pure intentions. They promise to be different to their predecessors; to represent the people; and to stand up for what is right. The issue is that within 6 months of being elected they come to the realisation that politics is often a game where the main goal is re-election. Many soon forget their intention to serve the people and make a difference, and shift their focus to survival at the next election.
So, what do we look for here? We need to look for signs of their true intentions. Are they self-serving? are they narcissistic? will their stated intentions stand up to the heat of battle and pressure of being in the political game?
A great way to assess how someone will be once in a position of power is to observe their true character. How do they behave when they think no one is watching? When there is no camera or microphone in sight? How do they treat people in their everyday life? Everyone from the door attendant that opens a door for them to the server at a restaurant. The key is to look for how they treat people that they may consider to be "beneath" them or consider that the person cannot serve a beneficial advantage to them.
What to look for? When someone treats everyone with respect regardless of who is watching it shows that they are a person of character.
Authenticity allows us to see the real person. The real human being that is standing in front of us for all of their quirks and foibles. To see their strengths, to see their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I, for one, would much prefer to follow a leader that has self-awareness of their superpowers and knows their kryptonite. This self-awareness will give me great confidence that they will surround themselves with people with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds to complement their own strengths and neutralise any shortcomings they may have.
What to look for? Do they bring their authentic self every day and to every event? Do they come across as natural or do they always seem to be "putting on a show"? Do they have self-awareness? Do they celebrate their strengths whilst being humble about their weak points? If they portray themselves as perfect or as the best at everything, avoid them at all costs.
Now, more than ever, we need leaders that have a clear vision for the future. What kind of world do they see for us in the future? What world will we be passing on to our children? Having a clear vision for the future will provide some confidence that they will be able to make tough decisions for the betterment of society. Tough decisions are sometime unpopular but are nevertheless needed.
The opposite of this is "populist" politics. Politicians that are just saying things that they think you want to hear. This could be one of 2 things - Sugar coating the reality of a situation to placate a crowd; or far worse, they could use overly emotive language designed to stir the waiting crowd into a hyped up fury that is playing to insecurities or biases. In both cases, I often question whether the politician truly believes the words that are coming from their mouths or whether they are intoxicated with the dopamine release that results from having a crowd in front of them that is responding to everything they say. Using their internal applause-o-meter to work out which phrases are landing and which are not.
What to look for? A true visionary that talks about the future. Watch out for any politician that is just playing a popularity game and speaking in spiffy soundbites around a provocative topic. Look for leaders with a vision and plan rather than those that build their campaign that is simply built on generating fear of their opponent.
Values and Beliefs
Values and beliefs will have a great impact on a person's actions and decision-making. We need politicians that are able to articulate their values and beliefs with clarity. We need the confidence that they will stick to these values and beliefs and not crumble under the pressure of the situations they find themselves in.
What to look for? Clarity and conviction to their values and beliefs. Congruence. Does their body language, facial expressions, and posture match the message that they are delivering? If everything is in complete congruence there is a great chance they truly believe what they are saying and they are not just reading a speech based on what their advisors are telling them to say.
A Matter of Trust
It ultimately comes down to trust. What is your gut telling you about who they are and what they stand for? Look at the real person; the whole of the person; and push the political hype machine to one side. Make a conscious decision and vote for the person that you would be proud to represent you.
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