I just went to see the movie Swing Vote and while I would not say it was a great movie, it had a really important and significant message. Not only for the political season we are currently in but for all of us who are in a position of leadership.
In the movie, by a quirk of circumstances a single voter is going to decide the outcome of the national presidential race. And as you can expect both campaigns are out to convince this voter to vote for their candidate. What we witness is how each candidate starts taking positions opposite their core beliefs; the republican taking a position against business interests and declaring for a wildlife preserve, the democrat taking a stand as a pro-lifer. You get the picture.
While it is an interesting caricature I just happened to read in the real life pages of the Wall street Journal how McCain is going to announce this Thursday, his Technology Policy. The Journal comments that, while “technology policy has not been a front-burner issue for either Sen. McCain or his rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the issue “has become more critical for the McCain campaign in recent weeks, as perceptions grow…that Sen. McCain is less than tech-savvy.”
And in another article the Journal reports that the campaign for the CEO vote is heating up. With increasing attention on the economy, the presidential candidates are trying to wrap themselves in business’s embrace by wooing some of the best-known chief executives.” Both Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barak Obama (D-Ill.) “have perceived weaknesses when it comes to managing the economy” and both candidates “believe endorsements — or support, if not an outright endorsement — from business leaders can help shore up their economic credentials.”
I cannot help but wonder are the candidates are taking positions so they can win or are the taking positions that truly represent who they are.
I know in my life and in my career there were many times I took positions so “I can win”. Positions that I thought would make others like me more or to gain support of others for something I wanted. I know how easy it is to rationalize why I am doing or saying a certain thing. It was much harder to simply state what I believed especially in the face of potential criticism.
So where do you as a leader take a position that is not fully true to your core beliefs. Do you find yourself rationalizing a certain decision because after all we have to make the numbers this quarter, even when in your heart you know that is not “fully” the right decision. What about the time you decided on a simple compromise with the board, when your instincts were telling you it’s wrong. Did you find an “acceptable” rationalization?
It’s not easy holding to you core beliefs or following you gut instincts. On one had we are not always right and must remain open to the inputs of others. On the other hand the human capacity to rationalize is so powerful it is hard to tell when we are and are not rationalizing. Whether it is because we want to be accepted, we want to avoid conflict or we want the ability to be in the position we are in so we can make the difference we want to make.
So like in the movie at some time we come face to face with ourselves and have to ask the question, Just how true to our core values have we been.