I have just had the pleasure of spending the best part of last week in our Perth office. As well as experiencing some of the most beautiful weather and blue skies, I was able to indulge in another one of my favourite pleasures; late night political talk shows. I know that this is a strange hobby for me to indulge in; some would even call it “nerdy”.
As we all know, America is presently in the midst of choosing the Republican nominee for President to challenge President Obama in 2012. I watched the reports from the New Hampshire primary coverage where former Governer Mitt Romney comprehensively defeated the field and cemented his place as the favourite to win the nomination. There was much fanfare and noise and plenty of interviews for me to watch, however there was one particular post ballot interview which caught my attention.
Piers Morgan is a world famous journalist (some would say infamous after having his reputation sullied in the News of the World parliamentary inquiry) who works for CNN. He replaced Larry King and tends to interview with an open and curious style. His guest for this interview was Jack Welch who was perhaps the most celebrated Chief Executive in the world in the 1990’s. He was the CEO of General Electric and he led the business to an unprecedented period of sustained growth and profitability. He authored many books on management and leadership and was admired by many.
Piers Morgan asked him about his views on Mitt Romney. Welch replied with “he is the best qualified candidate that I have ever seen put himself forward to be the President of the United States”. He spoke about his record as the CEO of Bain Capital and Bain Consulting as well as his period as CEO of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He gave many examples of how Romney empowered people and turned around companies and organizations and led them to prosperity. He paid particular attention to his time with the Winter Olympics where he took over as CEO when there was a danger that the Olympics were not going to proceed. They were financially strapped and struggling to stay afloat.
Jack Welch’s statement made me think; what are the “selection criteria” for the President of the USA? Could I, a professional recruiter, hypothetically recruitthe best candidate to be the President? Here is a list of some criteria I think could be relevant for the position today:
Demonstrated understanding of economics and business – as the world continues to struggle with the global financial crisis, there is a necessity thatthe most powerful person in the world knows how to navigate through tough economic times
Ability to build cross border and cross cultural relationships – as globalization takes hold and the world becomes “smaller” there is a real need for the person in this role to have the ability to understand different cultures and negotiate agreements. We have all had enough global conflict of recent times so having the diplomacy to avoid this is essential
The ability to be calm under pressure – you need somebody in this position to be a clear thinker and not let situational pressures lead to a poor decision. I have never seen a better example of this than seeing the photos of President Obama when the Navy Seals were conducting the mission to find Osama Bin Laden
Empathy – as the gulf between the “haves” and the “have nots” increases throughout the world it is important that the person in this role have empathy for all people. When a leader loses this, they run the risk of losing their audience
Resilience – the only certainty about this role is that you will face challenges and difficult times. You need a candidate who is able to get throughthe tough times and come through the experience stronger for it.
The ability to inspire – I know that this is difficult to quantify however I think it is important when the world is looking for leadership. Kennedy had it. Clinton had it. Reagan had it. Obama has it however he is facing an examination over whether he has the substance to match the style
I know that there are plenty of other criteria for a role of this magnitude. I can see why Jack Welch rates Romney so highly (it is worth noting though that his wife did once work with Bain) but he will have to convince the electorate that he can connect with them and inspire them. Obama is a master orator and he inspires naturally; but does he have the economic strength to lead through difficult times?
It will be an interesting election whichever way it goes. I just hope that the American electorate recruit a candidate with the enthusiasm, intelligence, EQ and creativity to lead the world over the next four years.
Brad McMahon – Managing Director