The current political scene has brought an important issue to the forefront. Specifically, how, if at all, are leadership and gender intertwined? While in the past I have written about leadership and women, what the current situation clarifies for me is that it’s not really about gender at all; but rather, it is about skills and, ultimately, the performance of a leader that matter most.
With Sarah Palin now a central focus of the Republican presidential ticket, people are asking if she has what it takes to be the vice president and “one heartbeat away” from the presidency. To be fair, some ask these questions in a completely gender-agnostic way, questioning her credentials and experience. However, there are those that ask the question from the perspective that she is a woman and a mother of five children, one a special needs child. As far as I am concerned, it is completely appropriate to inquire about a candidate’s viability for the role they are seeking. But again, these inquiries ought to come from the perspective of qualifications, not gender. No father of however many kids has ever been asked this, so why ask Sarah Palin? Mind you, I’m not defending or admonishing Sarah Palin for joining the Republican ticket. As a citizen of the United States, my concerns are more about identifying and electing the ticket [including both the president and vice president] that can address the issues of importance to me and our country.
In fact, it would be interesting if we were able to hold “blind campaigns” wherein candidates campaigned based solely on their views, policies and credentials without listing their names or otherwise being identified to the public at large. This would force us all to look at the issues and focus our collective concerns on resolving the issues of priority rather than being caught up in questions around gender, race, personality or popularity. After all, most voters can’t even accurately describe their candidate’s view or positions on critical matters — they just know which way they are voting.
With the magnitude of the current economic crisis, the ramifications of the ongoing geo-political turmoil and the turning tides within international power struggles, we really must focus on the capabilities and performance of our leaders and ignore meaningless criteria such as gender, looks, age, etc. Moreover, we must remember that every successful leader owes their achievement to the dedicated and energized organization that supports them — or what I call a village. For sure, a leader leads, but one also needs followers, supporters and a raft full of other leaders at all levels. It’s high time we put the focus on where we want to go and how we are going to get there. In five, ten or even 50 years time, we will look back and judge our new presidential team only by the results that they delivered to the U.S. people. All the rest is, well, lipstick on a …
Nina Nets It Out: For me, outcomes are the ultimate goal. As teams, we must focus our energies more on getting to the desired outcome than worrying about who gets credit or who is steering the vehicle. As leaders, we must take this notion to mean that actions such as publicly sharing the credit for achieving the outcome are necessary. Be sure to consider other ways of engendering a focus on desired outcomes.