Good Presidential Leadership

In the face of this year’s presidential election campaign marathon, what should we look for as an indication of a well-differentiated (emotionally mature) leader?  In a chronically anxious society, a media-saturated marketplace, and a reactive political climate—all of which theU.S.has these days—it is difficult for hopeful candidates not to get caught up in poor leadership habits.  However, non-anxious, clear-headed, well-differentiated leadership is what is required in our confused and anxious situation.  So which candidates give evidence of emotional maturity and well-defined leadership?  This is more about character than it is about policies, but it is clear that good leadership generally produces good policy.  Here’s what a few leadership “gurus” have said?

Rabbi Dr. Edwin Friedman: A well-defined, resilient leader …

  • focuses on strength rather than pathology, i.e. rather than on what’s wrong
  • is concerned for one’s own growth rather than on techniques
  • works with motivated people rather than simply with the symptomatic, i.e. the disgruntled
  • seeks enduring change rather than symptomatic relief
  • is concerned to define self, i.e. take stands, not simply to give insight
  • is willing to look at one’s own “stuckness” rather than always diagnosing others
  • adapts toward strength rather than toward the weak
  • has a challenging attitude that encourages responsibility

Dr. Peter Steinke: A good non-anxious leader will …

  • be calm (in the face of crisis)
  • be challenging (when a system/person is stuck)
  • focus (in the face of confusion)
  • be ready to change (when there are new conditions/situations)

A leader works on self, on his/her own functioning rather than on personality, gaining consensus, techniques, information, or expertise.  The field in which the leader works is most importantly influenced by the leader’s being and functioning/doing.

Dr. Ronald Heifetz:

      “Exercising Leadership from a position of authority in adaptive situations [situations/challenges in which there are no clear and agreed upon answers/strategies] means going against the grain.  Rather than fulfilling the expectation for answers, one provides questions; rather than protecting people from outside threat, one lets people feel the threat in order to stimulate adaptation; instead of orienting people to their current roles, one disorients people so that new role relationships develop; rather than quelling conflict, one generates [conflict]; instead of maintaining norms, one challenges [norms].”  (Leadership Without Easy Answers, p. 126)

So how do you think the candidates stack up?


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