What Qualifies Someone to Be President?

This is a question that politicians and the news media have been talking about for some time. With the announcement of Gov. Sarah Palin as Senator McCain’s running mate last Friday, the conversation has grown louder.

This post isn’t about politics, and will leave you to draw your own conclusions. It isn’t written from the right, left or center, but from the perspective of leadership. While I hope it helps you answer the question posed in the title, I also hope it gets you thinking much closer to home, about the leaders you observe and possibly even hire.

While we can, I hope draw connections between the position of President and that of other leaders let me start with a belief that no previous job can completely prepare you for the U.S. Presidency, because I don’t believe there is any job like it. Since no one running has been President before, everything being said about experience should be considered carefully.

Both candidates (and their VP picks) have relevant experience – some in Washington, some with foreign affairs, some with more national media experience, some with more “Executive” experience, some as a father, and one as a mother – and all of these experiences vary across all four candidates. So – all have some relevant experience and none have all of the pertinent experience. Regardless of what they will say or imply, none will be ready on January 20 (or later if become President later due to a tragedy).

Beyond Experience

Since it is not possible for anyone to be prepared completely for this job, and because it is unfathomably complex, a leader must take great care in surrounding themselves with others who can help them succeed as a team. When considering this, think about these questions:

– Who are they surrounding themselves with?
– Do these other people have skills, talents and experiences that build on the weaknesses of the leader?
– Are they willing to put together a team of people with a variety of perspectives, knowing that in the dialogue that comes from these differences, better directions will be set and more effective decisions made?

If expertise of the candiate alone can’t be the deciding factor, then consider the questions above, and the ones you think of as well, to help you make your own determination.

What About Change?

Both parties and candidates want to create change. Unless a candidate is following a very popular two-term President, candidates are ALWAYS wanting to create change – whether it is a campaign talking point or not. So what can we learn so far about each candidates’ willingness and ability to change?

Let’s look at any leader’s skill at creating change. Leaders who are skilled at change can:

– distance themselves from the status quo.
– build a clear and focused picture of the desired future, after the change has occurred.
– persuade those who must change too to come on board – and sooner than later.
– create a dialogue so that the change doesn’t belong just to them, but is a vision owned and shared by many.

One of the decisions each voter must make when choosing a candidate to vote for, is to consider their policy positions, of course. This post has focused on what I believe to be a factor at least as important – who will be most successful at leading.

There are many other factors beyond experience and change. I write about these two today because they are two of the most widely discussed points today.

I hope these ideas help you think about Presidential leadership, leadership of any other public office, and in leadership closer to home as well. I also hope you will share your thoughts in the comments below – in a non-partisan, leadership focused way.

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