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5 Words You’ll (Still) Never Hear on the Campaign Trail

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[Note to my readers: I first wrote and published this post four years ago in our last US presidential election cycle. Just out of curiosity, I flipped back into my blog archives to see if what I’d written then would still apply.

Well, what do you know? Seems to me that, given this particularly unusual and contentious election contest, it’s even more relevant today.

Whether you’re leaning left, right, or other–politically speaking–whether you’re pulling for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, or Jill Stein, consider these words and, perhaps, take the opportunity to apply the lesson to your own leadership approach.]

In this (and every) election year, I find myself amazed all over again at the phenomenal effort our elected and would-be elected officials put into the denial of their own mistakes. They don’t ever want to fess up to anything, it seems.

5 words you’ll never hear on the campaign trail:

“Here’s How I Screwed Up.”

I get it; I understand their motives.  They want to get nominated, elected, or re-elected, and they don’t want to give any more grist to their competitors’ meat-grinding mill than absolutely necessary. They want to look perfect.  They want to look invulnerable.  They want us to love them. Or, at least, tolerate them just enough.

I understand that leadership in the political arena is, in many ways, different from the day-to-day, up-close-and-personal leadership you and I practice in our places of work.  But, still, I think our politicos are missing the main point:

There’s no such thing as a perfect human being, and the minute one tries to appear to be perfect, he or she is automatically suspect.

So, how about we all stop trying so hard to market ourselves as flawless?

In fact, how’s about we boldly talk about our mistakes and share what we learned from the experience of falling and failing and flailing?

Again, many people—most, in fact—in positional authority are afraid that if they publicly cop to their mistakes (and fears, too), others will see them as incompetent.  (Competence is an important part of the game, certainly. Let’s agree right now that if you’re incompetent you should just get out of the way).  But there is a difference between mistakes of incompetence and mistakes associated with boldness, innovation or experimentation.

Here’s the question: How bold and public are you willing to be with your own valuable screw-ups?  In other words, how willing are you to let us learn from your mistakes? Whether you’re running for office or not.

How have you screwed up?

Care to go first?

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