096 - Are Politicians Good Leaders?

Students of our Leadership Accelerator course recently brought up a question about politicians.

The question was essentially, “should we view politicians as examples of good leadership?”

“Well, no.”

While my response to the question is definitive, it needs a little explanation. While a politician may be a great leader behind closed doors (that is within their team), the general public will never be allowed to see that side of the politician.

So my response speaks more about the political system of the US than it does the individual politician.

Let me explain why you should not look to politics for examples of good leadership.

Never accept blame or admit wrong

A political system will not allow a politician to accept blame for a failure or to admit when something is wrong. It is critical to effective leadership that a leader accepts the blame for any failures of a team. Additionally, a leader has to be transparent enough with their team to admit when something is wrong.

A politician may behave this way behind closed doors and in front of their team, but they will never do so publicly for us to see. Instead, a politician will shift blame elsewhere or spin a situation to make it appear positive.

Never say they don’t know

Another quality a good leader must have is a willingness to admit when they don’t know something and solicit advice from members of the team. 

A politician does not have that luxury publicly. When asked about a topic, a politician must respond in a way that makes it appear they know all about the topic. This is why it often feels like a politician says a lot to answer a question, but never really answers the question.

Everything is PR scripted

Very little about good leadership is scripted. Every day brings new challenges and unique situations that make scripted responses an impossibility.

This isn’t the case with the public view of a politician. In public, a politician must be well scripted. Every speech, announcement, and even press conference answer is scripted ahead of time to ensure the first two points made above are maintained.

So again, this isn’t a statement about individual politicians. It’s more a response describing the realities of a political system. So don’t watch politicians on television and follow their example - you aren’t watching good leadership.


Resources Mentioned:

The Leadership Calculator

The Leadership Accelerator