Nov 5 2008

Lessons from the Election

Lessons from the Election

There will be so many of these posts flying around the web today and in the coming weeks, but there’s at least one lesson from yesterday’s election that really struck me in the context of business leadership:  the importance of authenticity.

Obama won — and McCain lost — for many reasons.  But I think one of the main ones is that McCain didn’t run as McCain.  The number of Democrats and Independents who I heard say things like “I would have voted for the McCain who ran in 2000,” or Hillary supporters who said they’d never vote for Obama against McCain and then did, was huge.

McCain is a maverick.  There’s no doubt about that.  But he didn’t run as one — he tried to be something he’s not by pandering so much to the Republican Party’s base that he forgot who he was.  The result was a candidate who didn’t look comfortable in his own skin, who lacked a focused message, and who didn’t come across as himself. 

In politics, lack of authenticity is worse than the “flip flopper” charges that get thrown about so often.  Everyone’s entitled to a change of opinion on a key issue here and there as circumstances change.  Mitt Romney may have switched his view on abortion, for example, but you never had any doubt where he stood on it in the present and future.  With McCain, on the other hand, no one could tell how he’d actually govern and what positions he’d really take on a bunch of key issues because his whole persona seemed to shift.

The lesson for business leaders?  BE YOURSELF.  Could you see through McCain?  Your people can see right through you.  They may or may not appreciate you, your style, your humor, your decisions — but as long as they can tell where you’re coming from, you have a good shot at leading them.