Do you want hope?
Do you want change?
Do you want to be kept safe?
…All stump speeches, marketing communications and promises of the populist elite… but does it ever really pan out that way once in office?
I’m talking about ALL presidents and presidential candidates-remember that…
In the morning after the election I was having a text message exchange with my dad. Spoiler alert: we get along very well talking about politics because we both have a fairly sensible view of mankind and its relationship with the state.
I also think we’re pretty good at suspending our biases while understanding that all men and women, politicians or not, are just as flawed and fallible as we are… all of which seems to be a pretty great platform for political dialogue by the way!
Anyway he was expressing how he was optimistic about what our new president might be able to accomplish.
I replied with how I thought, actually, what Trump did was: a masterful job of telling people what they wanted to hear… which, WAKE UP CALL, is no different from any individual who has ever run for president… EVER!
And then my theory was confirmed when I was listening to a brilliant clip from Donald Miller, author and CEO of Storybrand-a company specializing in helping people and businesses hone their marketing message to fit a more poignant narrative style.
He reminded us of the famous Bill Clinton advisor, James Carville, who in 1992 helped a seemingly insignificant Governor oust a very strong incumbent in George H.W. Bush while using a very simple 3-point policy communications approach:
change vs. more of the same
it’s the economy, stupid
and don’t forget about healthcare
The principle is simple: anytime somebody asks a question about anything, I mean ANYTHING (foreign policy, the environment, crime, etc) you redirect to one of these… why? BECAUSE ITS WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR!
What affects people more at the core of their daily lives than: being discontented with something (anything!) and that’s the change bit by the way-someone could be walking down the sidewalk and say, “gee, I just can’t stand the way those trash cans are stacked or I just hate the way that newspaper gets thrown or why does that dog keep dumping on my lawn…?!”
…And you know who has the power to CHANGE all that?! Well the President… duh!
What affects people more at the core of their daily lives than their money?! Literally enough said. Bottom line: nothing is more emotion-evoking and personal than our cash-flow. Mess with that and you mess with the masses.
What affects people more at the core of their daily lives then how they’re feeling at any given moment in their physical bodies or when someone near and dear to them gets sick?!
Remember “John Q” the Denzel Washington film about a gun-welding concerned father who holds a whole hospital hostage in order to get his ailing son treated? Yeah, that kind of stuff.
And a funny thing happens… when you simplify, streamline and personalize your message to the matters people care about most, you too can be elected president.
Okay… it’s slightly more complicated than that… build an incredible team, raise incredible funds, get comfortable traveling and talking A LOT. Sure.
But all of that doesn’t amount to much if it’s not backed and anchored by a crystal clear narrative that hits at the hearts and minds of what people, in all our narcissism and narrow-mindedness, care about most.
Now is that wrong? Is it wrong to give people what they want and tell people what they want to hear? NO… not exactly. I mean that’s the entire premise of marketing and of a fair exchange marketplace. But I’m more concerned about how you deliver on that…
And that’s, in essence, what I finished saying to my dad that morning: lets see if a man’s word is his bond…
In my opinion there are at least 2 things that don’t serve people within this approach (and again as leaders we are in the “serving people” business):
- It’s disingenuous (in essence, it buys votes, also gives people a false sense hope)
- It’s crippling (it takes people out from being a part of the solution)
It’s disingenuous because you’re promising you’ll deliver on something that you’ve never delivered on before or at least have very little odds of delivering on-and I think this is historically proven by past presidents.
And it’s obviously crippling and victim-creating because it takes people out of the center of being the hero of the story! It’s what I’ve said before as my least favorite thing that happens to people/voters as political collateral.
Everyone wants a savior from their personal circumstance, but few want to stand in the gap themselves. When we appeal to this base notion in others we are limiting their potential to stand and deliver on the very change they wish to see.
And that’s where I see the place of true leadership stepping in. Real leaders offer an alternative path:
- Tough love and careful truth-telling coupled with;
- Delegating and empowering people to be the change they wish to see
The first is about calling people out on that narcissism and narrow-mindedness mentioned above so they can see and respond to a higher vision.
THAT’S whats good for them,
THAT’S what will grow them,
THAT’S what will make them, their neighbors, their family, their business, their community better and stronger. Not sweet-smelling empty promises and campaign trail rhetoric.
I rather risk a friendship than spare one person’s wildly unleashed leadership legacy.
The second is about intentionally developing them and sending them out with the keys (empowerment) and the freedom to say “yes” (ownership of decision-making) so that a greater and greater sphere of people might experience the same levels of growth.