What Romney and Obama can learn from Jim Lehrer in tonight's presidential debate
Jim Lehrer will moderate tonight's presidential debate with the same thoughtful tone he instilled in me as a young journalist. With Washington gridlocked, our next president will need that same spirit of inquiry and dialogue. Mitt Romney and President Obama should start by taking a cue from Jim.
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Of course, Lehrer won’t be able to practice fully the interview pause in tonight’s debates. The fast-paced, sound bite-driven format of televised debates isn’t conducive to five-second silences, but I have no doubt Jim will moderate the discourse with the same thoughtful tone he instilled in me as a young journalist. Today's political leaders could use more of that tone.Skip to next paragraph
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In January one of the candidates in this week’s debate will be sworn in as president. To lead effectively, he’ll be smart to take a cue from Jim. He should talk so people will listen, and he should listen so people will talk. Engaging people in that way is the only path to real dialogue.
Of all the things leaders of change do, talking is among the most visible and certainly among the most influential. Whether you are a prominent CEO or the head of the PTA at your child’s school, there are four critical orientations to sound leadership. They combine to help people to engage each other in ways that produce breakthrough results. Approach any leadership role by being:
• Think-friendly. Adopt a growth mindset that you are capable of solving problems in fresh ways. Exercise curiosity by asking smart questions to explore and discover. Challenge your own conclusions to ensure that your assumptions are valid. Make appropriate connections that lead to a richer mix of possibilities.
• Talk-friendly. Develop and use dialogue and appreciative inquiry. Listen to learn rather than to outwit and overpower. Exercise persuasion and influence rather than position and authority. Be willing to be influenced rather than assuming that the views of others should always be subservient to yours.
• Trust-friendly. Behave in ways that earn trust. Extend trust to others. Personify trust in all you do. In every relationship, make trust first so it will last.
• Team-friendly. Work with people in ways that foster genuine collaboration. Remember that we live in an interdependent world where progress (and even survival) is about mutual reliance and overlapping interests.
That spirit of sincere inquiry and cooperation not only makes good leaders, it finds solutions. With Washington gridlocked, America divided, and budget deficits looming, the next American president will need that spirit of constructive collaboration more than ever. To start, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama should look to Lehrer’s example tonight.
Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan is founder and CEO of Duncan Worldwide, which specializes in leadership and organizational performance. He is the author of “Change-Friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance.”