Are Presidential Candidates Authentic Leaders Or Do They Just Wear Political Masks?

Feb 10 2016
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Behind the Scenes at the GOP Presidential Primary

As a leadership researcher and author, I find no better stage to study leaders than the stage of political theatre.  Every mask worn on that stage identifies a series of types that range from shadow to light and from Machiavellian to ideal leader.  Will these actors be tough enough, smart enough, experienced enough to put the American economy right and restore America’s national security? And how will Americans decide whether these actors on stage are authentic or are just wearing a mask?

Iowa primary voters put these questions to the test last week when they were caught off guard with a campaign tactic that effectively peeled off voters from one candidate and moved them to another.  In case you missed it, a direct-mail piece went out to Carson’s identified supporters, stating that Dr. Ben Carson had dropped out of the race.  Push-pull calls followed the targeted mail from the Cruz Campaign to turn out these former supporters of Carson to go-to-vote for Senator Cruz.

Was this tact a deception, or just a political ploy?

The political insiders running for president would call this tactic a strategy that worked, as votes were stripped from Dr. Carson.  “Outsider” candidates on the other hand were outraged, calling these tactics fraudulent.  In this crowded field of  candidates there appears to have emerged a new lane for candidates to run, the “outsider” lane — reserved for those who can still remember how to blush.

What of the press and its role in the political communication process?   The mainstream media may be befuddled with the rise of the political “outsider.”  CNN went so far as to mock Mr. Trump’s outrage at the Cruz Campaign reporting, “Mr. Trump will soon be up for the “Nobel Peace Prize” in defending Dr. Carson’s voters.

How will voters discern what is authentic and what is behind the masks of the candidates on stage?   Are there attributes and characteristics we can identify and measure to predict the type of leader a candidate is, and will be, in political office?   As we have found in American-election history, the type of campaign and influences on a presidential candidate will shape the type of leader who emerges in the Oval Office.

The Center for Leadership in Government, Politics, and Policy will examine the attributes voters are talking about during the 2016 Primary and the characteristics of candidates that drive them to the polls to vote.  The Center will also examine the influencers of politics on candidates, the media and the voting public.  Please join us at as we begin our journey to choose the next American President.

Terri J. McCormick, Ph.D.