Few leadership skills are required to run for office. Many are required to remain in office. The words of General Eisenhower, the leadership traits of those distinguished in public life, who bettered the life of those they served.
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Dwight Eisenhower was a 5 Star General, the Supreme Allied Commander who led the D-Day invasion, and liberated Europe from Nazi Germany. After the war he served as the Army Chief of Staff, President of Columbia University and twice won landslide elections for President. He also uttered some words about leadership that I keep on the wall of my office, “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong, and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.”
It was one of many things this most talented man had to say about leadership.
In my 40 years of working in political campaigns I’ve seen candidates in their best and worst moments, those who thrived under pressure, and those who survived while courageously sailing against harsh political winds.
Today, I share some of the leadership traits and characteristics of those who served long in public life, and bettered life for those in their community, state and country. Like Eisenhower, they do not blame others or make excuses for their shortcomings. They take responsibility for their mistakes and are always generous with credit for good deeds done.
They surround themselves with people who know more than they do, are wise enough to know they can’t know everything, and humble enough to know they’ll occasionally fall short. They have an insatiable appetite for knowledge, read incessantly, are intellectually curious, and listen well. They are not afraid to change their mind or see something differently today than they did 5 years ago.
They do not surround themselves with toadies and sycophants. Instead they seek friends and staff who will tell them the truth, and agreeably accept hard facts and constructive criticism. They never personally attack or belittle others on social media. They do not engage in gossip. Likewise, they never attack an opponent’s religious convictions or a member of their family.
They are not motivated by power for power’s sake. They seek it only as a means to better their community, state or country. They treat all with respect and dignity, and are just as kind and generous to a waitress as they are to a well-healed contributor. They are experts at reading body language because they know body language cannot lie.
They are calm in a sea of chaos, and a source of inspiration when surrounded by silence and dejection. They never dwell on what might have been or who did wrong. They instead regard each failure as a learning experience on the road to success. They believe courage is contagious, that courage is respected and cowardice is neither.
I shall add one more. They are never ashamed of what they see when they look in the mirror, because they uphold an unbreakable code of integrity, an unbendable notion of right and wrong, and an unwavering disdain for injustice.
These leadership skills are not abided by all who run for public office. In fact, every year there are those who win who don’t. They are however, shared by those who survive in office, and depart from public life revered by those they served for the difference they made.