Tricky territory, politics. Along with religion, politics is the topic that "polite" people avoid at dinner parties. In the interest of etiquette, I'll try not to break the rule (too much). This is seemingly a departure from my usual coaching related topics, but not as much as you may think. I am passionate about people maximizing their lives to experience all that is possible for them. I strongly believe we must do all we can to align our lives with our values. Part of this effort is using our voice to create the world in which we live and the world we want to leave to our children. Apathy hurts all of us.
I don't care who you vote for. OK, that's not true. I do care, but that's not my point here. What is important is the criteria we use to elect our leaders at all levels of government. I'm amazed and often distraught when I hear some of the reasons people voted for a particular candidate, even if it's my candidate. Too often these reasons are unrelated to the skills and expertise required to govern effectively. Therefore, I am suggesting a non-partisan four-point voting guide.
First, it's all right if an elected official is wealthy, highly educated, and sophisticated. It's also OK if this person is not "down home," "one of the guys," (regardless of gender) or someone with whom you could "sit back and have a beer." Save these "good ol' boy" (again, regardless of gender) criteria for choosing friends. I want my elected leaders to think big and act big, which may be larger than I think or act. I am not the least bit interested in how "down to earth" they are as long as they are mindful of and empathetic toward people who are less fortunate and privileged. Charm and charisma are useful traits in a leader who will need to work with, and at times, negotiate with other officials. Bottom line: I am looking for a wise decision-maker rather than a new best friend.
Second, it's all right if your candidate is very self-confident. Heck, it should be a requirement. I don't want my elected officials, particularly at the national level, to be anything other than confident when they negotiate treaties, be they peace or otherwise. Confidence is not the same as arrogance; the former is feeling secure while the latter is being cocky. I want a candidate who is confident because he or she has done their homework. Bottom line: the meek may inherit the earth but only if they're still around when the will is read.
Third, it's all right if a leader follows a minority religion or, dare I say, no religion at all. Oops--I seem to be breaking yet another rule of polite society. (There go my dinner party invitations.) It only matters that our elected leaders practice the highest ethical and moral standards. We all know seemingly religious people who behave unethically as well as atheists who live exemplary moral lives. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Bottom line: we should vote for people who will make honest decisions and cast ethical votes regardless of their religious views.
Fourth, your candiate should be really, really smart. Smart includes both formal and informal education. We all know college educated people who lack common sense or who aren't curious about their world. Likewise, we all know people who didn't go to college who are smart, well-read, and well-traveled. The person making decisions that seriously affect my life, my community and the world should be someone who is always thinking, learning and growing, regardless of any diplomas granted. Bottom line: choose brains over brawn or beauty.
Those are my suggested criteria for choosing elected leaders. Think of it as the same criteria you would use to select a surgeon. First, I don't care how "down home" my surgeon is as long as she is competent at her job. Second, I want my surgeon to be very self-confident because she has studied hard and continues to keep up with current practices. Third, I have zero interest in my surgeon's religion as long as she is honest with me about the procedure and her ability to perform it. Fourth, I want my surgeon to be very, very smart and proficient, including all that was learned in books and through experience.
When I wake up from surgery, I care only about the outcome. Isn't that what we want from our elected leaders?