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Lessons from the campaign

This article appears in the issue Nov/Dec 2000 [Volume 9, Issue 9]


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During the campaign, Americans got a KM case in point: Bush against Gore in a "debate." (Disclaimer: What follows is intended to be only inadvertently partisan.) Among the important issues to be settled are:

  • What is the role of personality in leadership? Does a leader have to be likable? Is policy enough?;

  • Are facts enough?;

  • On what basis do we decide which facts to believe? How much of learning is the inevitable reinforcement of what we already know?;

  • How radical can the disjunction be between image and self before we move from posing to social psychosis?;

  • What's the difference between critiquing and criticizing?;

  • If personality is a key determinant, why are personal attacks considered out of bounds?;

  • How many presidential elections have been determined on the basis of body language? Is that appropriate?;

  • What is the best way to appear unscripted: to rehearse scripts that mimic improvisation ("Try pausing for a two count, rapidly shift your eyes back and forth as if thinking, and begin with the word 'Well' ") or by being unscripted? Can the audience tell the difference? (Consider using a Turing Test here.);

  • What does making a mistake tell us about a human being other than that she or he is a human being? What is the price of being wrong in public?;

  • Is it possible to listen while standing behind a lectern? To change one's mind?;

  • At what point does appearing like a leader require one to cease acting like a human being?;

    Now, apply all these questions to your management team's next communication.

    (Note: Lord knows I love hearing from y'all but please don't assume that I'm implying certain answers to these questions and then argue with me that Gore isn't a phony and Bush isn't a moron. (Oh, and by the way, they're both phonies but Bush is a genuine moron.)

    David Weinberger edits The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization JOHO, e-mail evident@self.com.


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