[February 10, 2020] The idea that senior leaders aggressively promote their people, organizations, and missions is not new thinking. These leaders also dramatize ideas that are at the core of what they do.
Years ago, in 1964, Italian journalist Luigi Barzini, Jr. wrote the popular book The Italians.1 In his book, he delved deeply into the Italian national character and introduced many readers to Italian life and culture.2 Barzini was an independent and influential journalist in the English-speaking world and war correspondent who covered world events. He was a regular feature who would entertain others to advance the way of life of Italians.
William F. Buckley, Jr. was another leader who dramatized ideas; this time for the U.S. conservative movement. He had a flair for the theatrical, posed as a striking figure, he was good with words and possessed an entertaining personality. Buckley could convince any person of the righteousness of being a conservative in only a few seconds.
Like Barzini and Buckley, everyday leaders dramatize ideas. How else can one convince others of the way forward? To unite people around an idea is no easy task. It takes an extraordinary personality, one of supreme confidence, an air of respectability, and high virtue of doing so. That is what leaders should do despite many leaders being somewhat deficient in this particular skill set.
I’m reminded of the Fort Dix, New Jersey garrison commander many years ago when a Major General still ran it. The garrison commander told me one day that his job was to be a cheerleader for the garrison, and that brought many new duties to his position. Those who came before him had ideas about the expansion of the post but had failed to implement any of them. This commander went everywhere with his message that Fort Dix “might be small but our customer service is unparalleled.”
Anyone who dramatizes ideas, people, community, or business has many available tools like social media, networking, speaking engagements, and seminars. Yet, it is the personality of the one person in the lead where responsibility rests. All the best tools in the world are meaningless unless the right man or woman stands behind them.
As the United States enters its final 270 days of its presidential competition, it has already become clear that only a few have the skill to dramatize their ideas. Trump and Sanders have it. Biden, Warren, and Buttigieg don’t have it. The former two are authentic, unapologetic, and both inspire and motivate through their words. The latter three are intelligent and secure in their convictions, but none of these have that special touch to clarify even why they are running for president.