Do you think presidential candidates know what it sounds like to be on the other side of them? I am not sure. Do I even know what my voice sounds like? Do you?
Self-awareness is a competitive advantage. The problem with presidential elections is that every candidate is hamstrung by a bevy of handlers who analyze every word, nod, action, and response. Thus, candidates can come across as very disingenuous and even scripted. Maybe that is why Donald Trump has been such a big hit–he apparently tells it like it is.
And yet, in the end, the American voter is going to vote for an individual who displays two very important ideals: intent and vision. The success of how each candidate reveals these will directly affect their success or demise.
Consider this. If you have a boss who is against you, but is acting as if they are for you, can you read between the lines? Usually. In the same way, if this boss was for you, could you feel it? Would you know they were supporting you? Most likely yes, right?
In my history of working with leaders around the globe, I have found very few leaders who are against others, and very few who are for others. Most leaders are simply for themselves, focused on their preservation and success.
That is intent – or rather the response to intent, the feeling that someone is either for you, against you, or for themselves.
And so, we ask the first question: Who are the presidential candidates for? Is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for us, against us, or for themselves? How about Bernie Sanders, or Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz?
When you listen and observe each candidate, what words are they using and how does it feel to be on the other side of that person?
Intent is the true power test. You can just sense it. Now, don’t get me wrong, every candidate wants to win and some candidates are natural politicians. Yet, it is possible to get a sense of the real motive when spending time with leaders or observing them.
The presidential candidate who proves to the American public that they are for the American public will increase their chances of winning exponentially.
Some candidates have a hard time connecting because of their personality type. Introverts have a much more difficult time connecting with the public, and America is an extremely extroverted culture. (Could that be why some of the earlier candidates have had less staying power?) Proper intent, however, can be felt; the more authentic the person, the more success each person tends to have on the campaign trail.
The second ideal is the ability to communicate a compelling vision of where they want to go. This has been hard for Jeb Bush as many people see him as part of the past instead of the future, which led to his backing out of the race. The same is true for Hillary Clinton. So far in this presidential campaign, the outsider has benefitted much more than the insider.
My prediction is that the winner of the 2016 presidential election will be the person who conveys the clearest and most compelling vision to the American people.
One insight into this reality comes from Clotaire Rapaille, the author of the The Culture Code, a book about understanding people’s motivations in particular cultures. He writes that the code word for America is ‘dream,’ and the code word for the American president is ‘Moses.’ The candidate who is the most Moses-like and who most conveys a vision to take the American people to the promised land wins.
That’s an intriguing fact, that the most compelling visionary candidate has one over the other candidates. There is no better example than President Obama. He was the most Moses-like candidate in our recent history, as his “Yes We Can” campaign compelled hundreds of thousands to vote for him across party lines.
A major issue in this election is the cynicism from past politicians from both sides who have used words to motivate, opening the door to outsiders to have a stronger position than ever in the past few elections. And yet, words must match actions in this election cycle. Intent must connect with vision. That is why the words are even more bold – to make an impact where the normal political words won’t.
Intent and vision are the keys to this year’s election success. The most authentic, Moses-like character will win. Those who feel like a politician and preserve themselves with a relentless inward focus will lose the very things they are afraid of losing.
Consider your review of each candidate based on their intent – are they for you, against you, or for themselves? Judge also on their vision for the future. Is their vision compelling, just a power play, or politics as usual? It is the candidates’ job to put themselves forward to be judged worthy. It is our job, as the voters, to vote on their intent and vision.
Jeremie Kubicek is the co-author of 5 Voices: How to Communicate Effectively with Everyone You Lead (Wiley 2016), by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram, about knowing what it sounds like to be on the other side of you.