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"What Kind of Leader Do We Need?"
Ventura Star, September 21, 2003

By Terry Paulson, PhD

With the California recall election coming up, you may want to think about the kind of leader you want to vote for.

Great leaders make an emotional connection with the people they lead. Enough people need to say, "Even though I disagree with him on some issues, I like him." That emotional connection allows leaders to borrow on that rapport in difficult times. What choices in this election make that connection with you?

Great leaders talk more about where we must go to create a viable future. Look for a leader who, instead of majoring in the blame game, paints a positive vision for the future of California. The biggest difference between a vision and a hallucination are the number of people who can see it. Is your candidate's vision for the future generating excitement in the citizens?

Great leaders use principles as their compass in difficult times. With a quick campaign and a rapidly changing economic challenge, don't expect detailed answers. Those will have to be worked out with legislators in Sacramento. Do expect a clear sense of the principles that will guide their choices. Be ready to choose leaders who reflect most of the values you support-Do you want more of an emphasis on higher taxes or smaller government? Do you want fewer regulations or controls on businesses or do you feel they are not being controlled or taxed enough? Do you want a leader who emphasizes personal responsibility or government support? Don't just think personalities; look for principles that resonate with you.

Great leaders are not afraid to surround themselves with wise people. The age of the omnipotent, all-knowing leader is over. We need leaders who have the confidence to get the best people around them and have the wisdom to listen to them before making decisions. Which leaders seem to seek out counsel from a variety of sources and yet have the strength to make their own decisions?

Great leaders would rather be respected than liked. They have the resolve and character to make the tough decisions even when polls do not support them. Any leader chosen to lead California in these difficult budgetary times will need to be able to demonstrate "tough love." Caring enough to make those tough calls brings respect.

Great leaders use financially tight controls where they can while being willing to invest resources where the government is needed. They are willing to close down or limit government agencies that are not adding critical value, but they are not afraid to take a strong stand to protect needed services. Look for evidence that your leader can say "no" to some programs to have the resources to invest where it counts.

Great leaders are master bridge builders. The great game of politics involves radical differences, but the best leaders can bridge across the political divide to listen and work with even people they disagree with. What leader seems to bridge differences without losing a sense of their own values and principles?

Great leaders inspire action and optimism in their people. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were such leaders. Reagan himself grew up on the hope and encouragement of Roosevelt's radio chats, where he heard comments like: "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." People responded to that same optimism in Ronald Reagan. To Reagan, it wasn't what happened in Washington or Sacramento; it was what happened in American homes and businesses-"I'm not taking your time this evening to ask you to trust me. Instead, I ask you to trust yourself. That is what America is all about… It's the power of millions of people like you who will determine what will make America great again." We need a leader in California who will appeal to our best hopes, not our worst fears. What leaders can encourage confidence instead of doubt?

Finally, great leaders have a good sense of humor. What leaders seem to take their jobs seriously and themselves lightly?

Let's hope on October 7th, California is left with a leader who can help bring back the California Dream we want our children to be able to live that dream for years to come.

Terry Paulson, Ph.D., of Agoura Hills, CA is a professional speaker on making change work and author of They Shoot Managers Don't They?

—Terry Paulson, PhD

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