Monday, January 7, 2008

Honest Ambition beats Dishonest Humility any day of the week

The January 14, 2008 essay in Time magazine is written by Michael Kinsley. He is talking about why candidates run for public office. While I think the essay is well written - I must say I hate it when smart people choose to point out the obvious. People who run for public office are not wallflowers - no shrinking violets! They are alpha dogs. Leaders of the pack. By definition that is what a leader is - they have the ability to get others to follow them. This is not easy work.

I also agree with his assertion that they would be leaders no matter what society they were born into. They are who they are. Leaders lead - whether it be the ruling party or the opposition party - it is who they are.

The question that lingers for me is why in our democratic society are we - culturally speaking so adverse to ambition? I spend a huge amount of my time motivating L & E to do certain things. I want them to be ambitious. I want them to accomplish things. I want them to grab life by both hands and shake the hell out of it, live the hell out of it.

When I worked at Firm X - we had a female sales manager. It was her job to motivate the sales force. Many people did not like her - she was not warm and fuzzy, she was driven, she pushed people to do their best, she was not always nice about it. She wanted the numbers up, she took it personally. She was ambitious. It was her job to stimulate ambition.

I think that if for a minute, politicians think as Kinsley asserts in his essay that people for one second think they are running because they are convicted or because they want to serve - then people are dumber and crazier than even I have thought. I, for one want to see the naked ambition. I want to know that you have fire in your belly, that you are driven to success and greatness. I want to know that you have the inner drive to want something even when the chips are down and the going gets tough. Ambition is not in itself a BAD thing. Unchecked power, bad. Ambition, required in my opinion. Leading the United States and defacto the free world is a tough job. It is not always going to be easy - the job is often thankless and the decisions often tough. If you lack that certain something - that fire - that drive - what I ask will happen when the job is not fun anymore - what will the leaders do when the glamor fades. Ambitions never dies.

It is not a requirement to cloak yourself in false humility to win the race. Being polite is nice, lying to me and telling me that you want the job of President - because you care so deeply about X, Y & Z. Please I was not born yesterday - while you may very well care about X, Y & Z - you want the job because you want it. You are driven to lead, you want to lead, you have had some success leading. You are not the beta in the pack but the alpha and you want to make that clear.

Be it nature or nurture or both - I want my leaders to be honest about what is driving them.

Being ambitious is not a sin - in the political arena honesty is in short supply - a true leader - one with the natural talent for it - would have the balls to be honest about their motives and not insult my intelligence. A real leader would put poll results seconds and honesty first.

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