Leadership Lessons from the Republican Candidates

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How long does it take to find a leader?  According to the Republicans it takes years.  The candidates have been sparring longer than Superman and Lex Luther. For anyone who has been following the debates, we might all be sick of the candidate by the time the real election comes around.  But the process is teaching us all lessons about leadership and what matters that we can apply to business.  And what we learn changes every week as more information comes out about all of them. Here is just a sampling of lessons to be learned from the Republican candidates.

  • From Herman Cain ­ Initially we learned that simplicity is important.  Even if people don’t agree with an idea, if they understand it, you can score points.  See the difference between the 9-9-9 tax plan vs. Obama healthcare.  Lately, we have learned that past sins can haunt a leader and that it is the lens through which a leader will be seen.
  • From Michele Bachmann ­ Learnings abound from Michelle such as saying stupid stuff will get a lot more media attention than complicated free trade agreements with other countries.  Just be careful about how stupid.  This is a lesson leaders should know by now, but not all of them got the email.
  • From Ron Paul ­ Ron is teaching us that sometimes style doesn’t matter if your message is powerful enough.  There is still room in the C Suite for frumpy.  Even if a leader thinks he or she will not be the eventual winner getting ideas out there can be a victory.
  • From Rick Perry ­ Governor Perry is teaching us that style and swagger does matter but so does preparation.  Even you think you will win, you still have to say something.  He is also teaching us that some self deprecating humor can make us more human and likable.
  • From Jon Huntsman ­ Being smart and good looking with lots of international experience isn’t enough.  Or maybe he is teaching us that no matter how perfect the candidate seems to be, sometimes there is just not a fit, for some unknown reason, there is no connection.  Boards should remember Jon Huntsman when interviewing CEO candidates.
  • From Newt Gingrich ­  “Nine Lives Newt” is teaching us that we can re-invent ourselves as many times as we want to but that talking about the “old days” doesn’t capture anyone’s heart or imagination.  Newt is teaching us too that one can never tell how things will turn out if you hang in there.  (Note to all – Sarah Palin has taught us that if you are not in the game, you are not in the game.)
  • From Mitt Romney ­ Mitt is teaching us that sometimes listening and being quiet for a while can command respect.  He is teaching us too that will only last so long before everyone starts asking for action and that wanting something really really badly only goes so far.  Lastly, he is teaching us that looking and seeming to be the perfect guy for the job is not enough.

Put it all together and we have a smorgasbord of quirks, styles, substance, communication skills, mistakes and histories worthy of watching.

We can all learn from the leaders we see every day and glean from them what we want to include in our style and what to avoid.  The Republicans right now are never ending Petri dish of leadership behaviors – both good and bad.

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