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Leadership Lessons from the Presidential Election

Jul 25, 2008
Business executives don't have to win votes to get appointed. But to be a successful leader, in the corporate world or the political world, you need to know who you are and what you stand for.

Even if you're not the next president of the USA, I urge you to spare five minutes to read these questions. It's a challenge, I warn you.

The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Governance developed 15 questions for presidential candidates. It might be worth taking a look at the HowYouLead website.

But if you don't have time to review the site, here's the list of 15 questions, translated for managers and leaders in business.

Who Are You Really?

1. Values: What are your five core values and how do they shape how you lead?
2. Attributes and Competencies: What are the attributes and competencies you value most in yourself that will serve you well in your role?
3. Weaknesses and Mistakes: Recent history has many examples of leaders whose weaknesses brought them down. What are your tendencies that could cause your leadership to fail?
4. People I Have Learned From: What figure from your past has exercised leadership in a way that you aspire to? What were their strengths? Tell us about a situation that tested their leadership.
5. Multicultural Experience/World View: What experiences have helped you deeply understand the mindset and values of other cultures?

Who Will Be at the Table With You?

6. Building a Team: Tell us about a high-performing team that you've built. What made it high-performing?
7. Coalition Building: Can you share some examples of when you were a catalyst who brought groups with polarized opinions together so that all voices were at the table?
8. Increasing Participation: The internet and technology have flattened the business playing field, allowing for more participation and collective decision-making. How will you create a more participatory business and give people the opportunity to influence decision-making?
9. Increasing Participation: Young people are coming into the workforce in greater numbers than ever before. Please give us some examples of how you have listened and responded to the next generation in your leadership. How will you keep the next generation engaged?

How Will You Decide?

10. Decision-making Style: The leader's role requires decisiveness. Please share some examples of your ability and willingness to be decisive. Can you tell us about a time when a lack of decisiveness got you into trouble? In retrospect, what would you have done differently?
11. Judgment: Tell us about a time when your judgment was tested in crisis. What do you want us to appreciate about your judgment?

How Will You Act? And What Will You Act On?

12. Leading Change: Can you give us an example of how you have overcome resistance to bring about a needed change?
13. Innovative Thinking: How will you create an environment for innovation within your leadership team?
14. Building the Confidence of Others: What are the first few things you'll do to raise confidence inside your company and outside?
15. Indicators of Your Values: What leadership skills and values do you bring to the challenge of leading your business in a way that puts people first? Can you point to three things in your past that will help us understand that you care about this challenge?

These are the things that the voters need to know about a potential president. Most business executives may be relieved that they don't have to undergo similar scrutiny when they are appointed!
About the Author
If you want the leadership success you deserve, get the leadership training you deserve. Download more free articles and leadership training videos from Steven Sonsino, an international business school professor and author of the Amazon bestseller "The Seven Failings of Really Useless Leaders"
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