What Leaders Can Learn From Voter Engagement
I am sitting here listening to the results of the South Carolina and Nevada Primaries and thinking WOW what an election season! Who would have seen this coming? My take away is that the Republican and Democratic Parties need to wake up and realize that their voters have left the building. Today’s voter, for the most part, has checked out, has disengaged, and is looking for leadership anywhere but within their own establishment candidates. And it has me thinking, that this election can teach us so much about employee engagement, if we pay attention to what is working, and what is clearly not working, for today’s political leaders.
Sure, voters may still be registered as a Democrat or Republican, they may still call themselves a Democrat or Republican, and they still may vote in their respective primaries. However, when it comes to supporting their establishment candidates many party voters have, in essence, left their party.
This year’s election is incredibly fascinating and quite fun to watch. Even if politics is not your passion, there is an awful lot you can learn about leadership, influence and engagement. In this year’s campaign, because of the importance of those three things (leadership, influence and engagement) we have two candidates seemingly coming out of left field, who are changing the face of this election.
On the left, you have Bernie Sanders, a Democrat from Vermont, who has risen from obscurity (really who had even heard of Bernie Sanders a year ago?) to put Hillary Clinton, the ordained democratic candidate, in the run for her political life. On the Republican side, you have Jeb Bush, of the Bush Dynasty, with an impressive record as Governor of Florida, bowing out after spending more money than any other candidate and having his famous family stumping for him. In addition, you have the establishment favorite Marco Rubio struggling to stay in the game. Every Republican candidate, no matter their record or position, is getting pummeled by Republican outsider Donald Trump.
Why? Is it because Sanders and Trump’s messages are full of practical solutions that will solve our country’s problems? Are they both so charismatic it is hard not to want to follow them? Or it is because their experience in leading a country in foreign affairs, national security and domestic issues is so strong voters cannot help but believe in them?
My answer would be no. Donald Trump has never once served in political office, nor has he had to interact or deal with foreign leaders in matters of national concern. And Bernie Sanders, while he is a long-term Senator from Vermont, he hardly has the experience or depth of knowledge on such issues as his competitor Hillary Clinton. As for charisma, one could argue that Trump is hard to take your eyes off of, but not because he is offering logical ideas and solutions, but more so because what he is saying is shocking and often rude and offensive. Bernie Sanders on the other hand, while a confident speaker, I am not sure he would even describe himself as charismatic.
So what is it? What are these two anti-establishment candidates doing that is causing them to lead in the polls? Well I would argue that it is not so much what they are doing, and more what their competitors, the traditional leaders of their perspective parties are not doing.
In my opinion, Sanders and Trump are becoming voter favorites because of the lack of leadership in the Republican and Democratic parties, than in response to anything they are doing. Today’s voters have disengaged, having found a lack of trust and leadership in their traditional parties, and as a result they have gone looking for candidates to fill the void.
There is a lesson to be learned here, and one that speaks to the importance of understanding leadership and engagement. I mean what good is being a leader if no one is following? As leaders today we need to take a lesson from what is happening in this political environment. If we don’t lead our teams, if we do not engage our employees, either someone else will, or our best employees will go somewhere else.
So where did the parties go wrong? How did this all get so turned upside down? There are four strategies that seriously impact engagement, whether it be voters or employees. And to ensure you do not suffer the fate of Republican and Democratic parties, use these as a guide, and double check your leadership when it comes to implementing these employee engagement strategies.
4 Lessons To Be Learned About Employee Engagement
- History Matters
- You need to begin by looking at your own track record and see what your leadership looks like from “their perspective.” Do you walk your talk, and do your actions match your words? If they do, great.
- If not, you have some work to do. You need to own up to the problem, you need to admit your failing, and create a plan to fix it. Both parties, Republicans and Democrats have continued to make promises to get elected, and not kept those promises when they have gotten into office. Our country is facing challenging times, and both parties are to blame. People, whether employees or voters, are forgiving, but you have to admit your failure and commit to change.
- Trust Is Earned
- Never demand that people, voters or employees, trust you. Understand that trust is something that is earned. Voters are listening as establishment candidates talk about the national debt, entitlement programs and immigration without any real plan of action, no real clarity on how the issues will be solved.
- Understand, voters and employees are not stupid, they do not expect the road to be easy. They are looking for leaders who are willing to talk about the problems, present solutions, and talk about how, specifically we can work together to overcome obstacles and accomplish our goals.
- Listen To Hear
- Do not just to wait for your turn to talk. Sanders and Trump are focused on the issues that are of top concern to voters. They listen to what is of interest, what matters to voters and they focus their attention and their message there.
- Sanders talks consistently about free college tuition and the rising costs of student loans. A matter so important to young voters. Trump talks about immigration and building a wall, and the threat of ISIS. Again, topics that his voters see as priority.
- Take Action
- This is the most important step – take action. Whether warranted or not, Sanders and Trump supporters believe that both of these men will take action, they will do what they say.
- Given the track record of the others running – Clinton, Rubio and Cruz – voters just do not believe that those who have been inside Washington can change Washington.
Yes, this is an interesting year, and no matter who wins the election you can bet that the face of politics will be changed forever. What we as leaders need to understand, is that politics is always a reflection of what is going on in the world today. Our employees are looking for the same thing from us that voters are looking for from politicians. So, take a lesson from what Sanders and Trump are doing, you do not have to agree with their politics to agree they know a thing or two about engaging voters.