Friday, June 09, 2006


The value of “experience”…

I’ve always valued the counsel of Vito Corleone, and his murderous honesty. And I think the American people have more often than not been able to sense the inherent wisdom in his assessment of Sonny, his own flesh and blood. He was good son – but a bad Don.
That’s why we have rejected so many Senators in their quests for the Presidency, choosing governors and others with executive pedigrees much more often. For there is a general recognition that there is a big difference between experience and leadership. And what we crave is leadership in public offices, from the presidency on down to the mayor’s chair.
This has long been recognized in the business world. Millions of truly fine, creative and dedicated managers will never become “the man” because they lack the tools essential to leadership. It is a very big step from chief operating officer to chief executive officer. See Dave Wannstedt.
So when a candidate talks about extensive experience managing the enterprise, you are inclined to pay close attention, because that is a very big asset. You do want efficiency, and someone who has proven to be skilled and adept at implementing policy is off to a good start. But skill at making the trains run on time is not the only thing we seek – indeed, it is probably only good to get you past the first interview.
It isn’t the only measure of qualifications for a top job – for a leadership position. Because the top dog sets policy, establishes or maintains culture and priorities, and exercises countless judgments that radically or incrementally determine how the entire enterprise will act. Sonny had a lot of experience, but was a very bad Don.
Even the very best of followers can turn out to be poor leaders. And long political campaigns tend to bring out the traits that allow people to choose who they think is best fit to lead – that was the hair difference that ultimately separated Bush from Gore.
So if you want to be the King, at some point you need to talk about what you would do, where you would take the kingdom, what you think is important and what you think is not, and why. Because why very often provides the critical clues to the soul, which can be the difference between a Level 5 and a Cat 5 – between a Parcels and a Wannstedt.
Just about every poll out there has huge majorities of people saying they think things are not going in the right direction, even as they show huge differences of opinion on specific issues. So the first question I think most people are looking for an answer to between now and November is this: Where would you route those on-time trains and why?
And a word to the wise for all: Answers that begin with "Jane you ignorant slut” probably ain’t gonna get ‘er done.

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