Thursday, September 06, 2007

Marriage and the Presidential Candidates

Marriage and the Presidential Candidates

I have often thought that the best way to tell if a candidate for president is truly qualified to lead the diverse population of leaders and ordinary folks like us would be to live inside his house for a few months.
I’d want to see how she relates to her husband when they quarrel, I’d want to see how authoritative he was. I’d look at how his children relate to him. I’d note their ability to perform in public but I’d also want to know if conflict in that home was embraced, related to lovingly and resolved. I’d ask about their recreational time, time spent with each other when all schedules, clocks, and agendas were shelved.

Marriage and family may be the best indicator of integrity, leadership ability, truthfulness, compassion and vision that we have. I’d also want to see how the candidate relates to the powerless – the plants in the house (are they cared for?), the pets (are they treated with firmness and compassion?) and the children (are they truly listened to?). Does our leader who wants to be president listen carefully, help the children process their challenges, support and comfort them?

Effective leadership requires each of these and more. Leaders who strut around publicly trying to impress people with their decisiveness may simply be bullies. Leaders who relate inflexibly to the needs of voters may simply be tuned out at home. Weak leaders who flip flop all over the place trying to lead by the polls may simply be passive and self absorbed – hanging on to power at any cost.

I read recently in the New York Times or perhaps it was Investor’s Business Daily that all leaders are corrupt by the very nature of the game. That may be true but I’m not that cynical. I think that politics surely involves the ability to compromise, negotiate and adapt to changing conditions. Having the ability to do that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re corrupt.

But family is or could be a reliable indicator of who has substance and who does not.

Another way of assessing a leader’s genuineness would be to take a close look at how they relate to their parents. Is this the dutiful daughter in would be presidential clothes? Is he unable to be truthful with the two most powerful people in his life? Can he love them and still differentiate himself in his choices, life style, ideas, commitments?

I offer some writer out there this idea: write a book on “the fathers of the presidents” and their relationships with them. Get it ready to publish but wait until the most likely candidates are visible for the next presidential election. Then, give a brief on each candidate’s relationship with his or her parents. I’m not talking a “life style” brief. I’m suggesting a well researched look into the dynamics of the relationship.
If you do that and we read it, we’ll have a far better understanding of the candidates we want to support, than we do by the current method. I’m not suggesting that “issues” aren’t valid. Where the candidate stands on the war, on poverty, health care education, national infra structure, the environment – are all necessary to the assessment of their desirability as candidates. But knowing that gives us only partial information since those ‘stands’ can and do change with the polls.

There’s a poem I saw in a kindergarten room some years ago. It said this: “who knows which way the wind blows, neither you nor I, but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.”

We need to know how candidates for president will look in the wind storms of the future. Seeing them through their most basic interactions in family will tell us that.

Stephen W. Frueh PhD

Stephen is a Leadership coach and mentor. He has written a book on marriage (With These Rings Volume I) and numerous articles. His articles and podcasts can be found at www.marriageconversation.com

Stephen can be reached at:
805 527 2600
and Stephen@withtheserings.com

For overview of the With These Rings model: www.WithTheseRings.com
For articles and podcasts: www.MarriageConversation.com
For blog: www.marriageconversation.blogspot.com
For speaking and presentations: www.stephenfrueh.com