Leaders need followers
The passage in Ruth 1:16 highlights what it means to belong: “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”
This was Ruth’s response when her mother-in-law Naomi suggested she go back to her own people after the death of her husband, Naomi’s son. But Ruth was determined to stay, to be with Naomi.
In a broader context of groups and leaders, Ericka Anderson, author of the new book “Leading So People Will Follow,” describes great business leaders we are drawn to follow.
“We are drawn to leaders who articulate a possible future in a way that speaks to us and includes us. Farsighted leaders use their clarity of vision and their articulation of a successful future to pull people out of fear or shortsightedness and into hopefulness and a sense of purpose.
“People want leaders who look beyond today... They look to the leader to articulate, in a compelling way, a clear and positive future state toward which they can direct their efforts. When leaders focus only on the current crisis or this quarter’s numbers, it seems to us that they’re more interested in maintaining the status quo or protecting themselves than in creating a successful future.”
“A truly farsighted leader, envisions a possible future that responds to and resonates with people’s aspirations for their individual and collective success,” she said. “When employees or potential employees hear about the good leader’s vision, their visceral response is, ‘Yes, I want to go there, too.’”
In the final count, more Americans voted to go with President Barack Obama than with Republican nominee Mitt Romney. This was an election that, given the state of the economy, the Republicans should have won.
In the most simplistic form, what happened was that the Republican Party led and not enough people followed.
A CNN/ORC poll provides a window into what might have gone wrong: The Democratic Party received the most favorable rating (51 percent) and lowest unfavorable rating (41 percent).
The Republican Party received a 39 percent favorable versus a 53 percent unfavorable, while the tea party results were 32 percent unfavorable, 50 percent unfavorable (1,023 sample, Nov. 16-18, plus or minus 3 percentage points).
The favorability gap between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is 12 points. Romney received a much greater percentage of the vote than the Republican favorability rating alone would have predicted.
Why are Democrats rated more favorably? Democrats have been much more competent at appealing to voters’ emotions, at communicating that they care. The truth is that Republicans care, too; they just don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves, nor do they communicate well that they care.
Democrats posture themselves as ready to do business, while some Republicans shout out their unyielding position.
Let’s take the “no new taxes” pledge as an exam- ple. While “no new taxes” is appropriate at the vision level, does it work at the tactical level? Politics is successful only if it results in implemented policy; the rest is for naught. Since both sides have to negotiate to get a budget passed and implemented, is it smart tactically to say to the other side, “I’m just not willing to negotiate” on this, that or the other?
Would it make more sense to enter the negotiation with everything on the table, but in the end agree only to what fits our values?
Republicans have been so busy holding a hard-line stance that they appear intolerant to most Americans. Meanwhile, Obama has been talking about a “fair share” and “balanced” approach to the fiscal crisis.
You decide who is winning the communication battle.
Republicans need to communicate a compelling vision in order to win the hearts, minds and votes of the American people. This vision needs to be inviting to others, not off-putting or offensive.
This vision would provide a framework for the tactics. Will others want to follow us? Only if the party offers a compelling vision, one that is inclusive and inviting. At every possible point, the question should be: Are we articulating a vision that people will hear and respond to?
In the end, it’s not enough to have the right policies or the right moral values. It comes down to who wants to go with you. If no one goes with you, you cannot win.