March 12, 2015

373 words 2 mins read

How to Recruit Better Political Candidates

Let’s accept that people are lazy.

I noticed no one rose to argue, so universal laziness is a given.

When political consultants and parties recruit candidates, they do the lazy thing. They look for candidates who are easily electable. They want people who look good, speak well, shake hands like they’re still alive, and never made the papers for slapping their spouse.

Actually, they want people who are squeaky clean. Boring. But still good speakers. Candidates like Rick Santorum.

(I already regret that comparison, but I’m sticking with it.)

The problem is . . . America deserves better. We deserve candidates who can lead. We are the United States of America. We deserve and expect more from political candidates than looking good in their high school year books and never having posted drunken selfies on Facebook. (I’m 0 for 2.)

We need leaders.

My business hero, Peter Drucker, said,

The idea that there are well-rounded people, people who have only strengths and no weaknesses, is a prescription for mediocrity if not for incompetence… strong people always have strong weaknesses too… where there are peaks, there are valleys.

I believe that. In my 51 years, I’ve never met a person of great strength who didn’t also have a great weakness. And all the “perfect” people with no weaknesses? They had no great strengths, either. They were mediocre.

A great political consultant would look for candidates with a strength we need. The person with that strength will have a weakness. The consultant or the party must shield the candidate and the people from that weakness without trying to “fix” the candidate. That’s hard work, to elect a candidate with both great strengths and great weaknesses. But it’s what political leaders sign up to do.

The World War II generation got this. All the generations since WWII have stumbled by looking for leaders who have no weaknesses. In the process, they’ve settled for leaders who have no strengths.

It’s time to reassert strengths in America. And that means learning to live with our leaders' weaknesses.

Want a better country? Recruit candidates with strengths, and sign up for the work of mitigating their flaws.

Americans will put up with flaws, but we will no longer tolerate mediocrity.