Newsletter #504 – Does the US Presidential Election Really Matter?

Despite the cost, hoopla, and mud-slinging of election campaigns do these matter or help Americans pick the best President? The winner is likely to inherit a Congress of uncooperative politicians many of whom put their own and their party interests above those of the country or the world.

In the midst of this electioneering I read Harvard professor Gautam Mukunda’s new book Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter. It is summarized briefly in Harvard Business Review (October 2012.)  Mukunda studied political, business and military leaders, categorizing them in two groups, filtered and unfiltered leaders. Think of them as part of the bell-shaped, normal-distribution curve. Filtered leaders cluster in the middle. They have gone through the system and met the criteria for promotion in their companies, professional organizations, denominations or political parties. In the process they join the elite company of insiders all of whom think pretty much the same. Any of them would be an acceptable and predictable leader. In contrast unfiltered leaders are those who never got promoted or never went through the system.

When things are stable, the filtered leaders do best. They are rarely outstanding but they keep things running smoothly. In times of change or crises, however, filtered leaders do poorly. Sometimes they fail and the only alternatives are unfiltered candidates at the extremes of the bell curve. In difficult times these can be exceptional leaders. They aren’t afraid of risks, thinking creatively or taking action. Lincoln and Churchill are examples. But sometimes these unfiltered people are the worst leaders.

If the world or an organization is not changing, pick a filtered leader. It probably doesn’t matter who because most would think or act in similar ways. In times of change, pick an unfiltered leader who is apart from the pack. From these how do we get the best and not the worst? Mukunda makes suggestions: Ask how your unfiltered leadership candidates led in the past. Were they stable? Did they make good decisions? Were they honest and trustworthy? What did they say in unguarded moments when their real character and beliefs appeared? Try to find unfiltered insiders who think like outsiders. And remember, God is in control (Psalm 75: 6, 7 and Romans 13:1).

What is your reaction to this? Any examples? Does this apply to elections? Please comment.

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