We are fast-approaching the close of a presidential election and the GOP candidate has a problem—he is not being seen as a leader on a consistent basis. Instead, he is seen as someone who changes his mind with the wind—doesn’t care about others and a whole host of other, negative observations from both sides of the political aisle.
The absolute worst charge hurled at Romney is that he exhibits a lack of empathy—and this is the charge that might kill his campaign: if people perceive you don’t care about them, they won’t care about you. Credibility is key.
Are these charges legitimate? Perhaps, yet much of what Romney has done to create this image he has done to himself and his campaign. Leadership is a campaign unto itself. The following comments are not meant to be overtly political—they apply to any leader of any stripe involved in making decisions that improve rather than derail organizational and leadership success. Here are some things Romney has done that other leaders should watch out for:
Making Decisions with Inadequate or Faulty Data. When Romney spouted off about the tragic murder of the US ambassador in Libya, did he have all the facts? No, he did not. And that became clear over time. It appeared he was making comments for political gain when perhaps he simply had a differing opinion.
Assume that Others Know What You are Talking About. When Romney talks about Bain Capital he might keep in mind that most people have no idea what venture capitalists do or how leverage investments work. The problem here is with the message. Don’t assume others have the knowledge you possess. As a leader, ensure they have operational knowledge of the facts first.
When You Are Wrong, Say So. Following the release of the now infamous tape of Romney speaking at a private fundraiser disparaging 47 percent of Americans he responded by saying his comments were “inelegant.” Hardly: they actually were disparaging, and he should have acknowledged so. If Romney had said he was wrong and this is actually what I meant to say it would have been better. But he didn’t. And the charges have stuck. You can’t simply say you care about 100 percent of the people as a leader. You have to actually show you do.
Mixed Messages Create Confusion. You don’t need eagle-eyes to understand Romney and his running mate have stated differing opinions on the same subjects—and media love to highlight these as an example that the campaign’s right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. And they are correct. Leadership is a campaign, too. If your department heads or Assistant Vice Presidents are contradicting you within the organization your leadership is diminished and your chances of success negatively impacted. This they do say in every political campaign: Stay on Message. And that’s good advice for any organization too.
By Darrell L. Browning