The Test of (Presidential) Leadership

With the U.S. presidential race heating up, and as we head toward the first of the crowded Republican primary debates, how will you assess which candidate would restore trust and confidence in American leadership?

This is especially important given the challenges America presently faces at home and abroad. Below are three factors to consider. (These factors are applicable to selecting the leader of an organization too.)

1. Credibility

A leader needs to demonstrate competence to be credible.  To determine this, we must ask several questions:

  • Has this candidate shown good judgment in what he or she has previously said and done?
  • Does this candidate demonstrate that he or she has the expertise regarding the subject matter of both domestic and foreign affairs?
  • Does this candidate have successful experience managing a senior leadership team that is responsible for managing a complex governmental organization?

2. Motives

Great leaders care about who they are (i.e. their character) and they want to accomplish significant ends. Poor leaders obsess about how they are perceived (i.e. their reputation) and they are focused on wanting to be great in their own eyes and in the eyes of others.  To determine personal interest versus self-interest, we must ask these questions:

  • Has this candidate demonstrated a genuine desire to serve others, or has he or she focused solely on self-interest?
  • Does this candidate want to get the job done well for the sake of America, or is he or she focused on perception and personal popularity?
  • Does this candidate have the courage of his or her own convictions, or is he or she leading according to the results of opinions polls?

Source: The Test of Presidential Leadership

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