Morning After Musings About Leadership, Messaging…

Looking beyond politics and what the special election in Massachusetts means for healthcare reform, economic recovery, war and peace, Constitutional rights…the state of the state, both in Massachusetts and the nation, raises questions about vision, leadership, influence, consensus building and compromise, communication and messaging.

  • Let’s start with how many Americans really understand the President’s vision — beyond rhetoric?   What does America stand for today?  How many (and who) can articulate that vision with clarity and passion?  Who’s listening and are we  unable to hear that vision through the impenetrable filters of joblessness and a not-yet-recovered economy?  Ironically, in periods of both extreme comfort and discomfort, do we retrench into a “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me) mindset that obscures our ability to hear and follow  a vision for everyone?
  • Similarly, was it conflicting visions that drove the vote in yesterday’s special election in Massachusetts or something else?
  • Just one year ago today President Obama was inaugurated after having been elected as our nation’s leader on a platform of change.  But in our understandable desperation for immediate change and frustration with the pace of the change we’re seeking, many Americans have abandoned his direction looking for what they believe might be a “quick fix” elsewhere. Is the President moving in the overall direction he mapped out during his campaign or has he radically changed course?    And, in our fast-changing world, should our leaders hold firm to a course set more than a year ago, or do we need to trust our leaders to adapt based on today’s context, circumstances, needs and opportunities?
  • When we step back and reflect, what really influenced Massachusetts’ voters?  Was it policy statements and values?  Or supporters and endorsers?  Logic or emotion?  Substance and/or style?  Which media had the greatest impact?  What role did websites and social networks play?   Powerful questions to be pondered by both politicians and business leaders.
  • Massachusetts has long been known as the “bluest of the blue” states.  A staunchly democratic state.  Yet the largest block of voters in Massachusetts are registered as independents.   (Democratic party take note.)   Despite partisan, Republican political viewpoints and supporters, Scott Brown painted himself as an independent and to his credit, he fired up the dissatisfied, disenfranchised independent voters (and many similarly unhappy Democrats) in this previously-believed-to-be-liberal state to follow him.   A lesson for future candidates that challenges the old adage that “perception is reality.”
  • What can we expect now from our legislators?  Paralysis?  Fear?  Obstruction?  Or compromise and consensus-building that will move us beyond stuck?  The “now what?” is the most important question to ask the morning after.
  • Finally, there is no question that some messages “stick” and inspire and others make the audience’s eyes glaze over.   As we’ve seen, when crafted brilliantly — and delivered passionately — even what many might consider unbelievable messages become believable. The message and messenger matter.

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