Hillary Clinton is experienced, smart, well-funded and hard-working. She's running a business in the guise of a Presidential campaign. But she's got a huge problem: She's getting beaten (so far) by a grumpy old socialist, of all things. She barely squeaked out a win in Iowa, is projected to lose in New Hampshire and is now running even in the national polls. And did I mention her opponent is a grumpy old socialist? As a leader in charge of a multi-million dollar organization that employs thousands she's getting killed so far. Why?
"A leader is a dealer in hope."
She isn't communicating her vision.
Hope doesn't require facts or even reality. It requires vision. Agree or not, Clinton's economic plans make more sense than her opponent's. Her strategies for dealing with challenges overseas are backed by years of experience working in the government. Her support from some of the largest labor unions make it clear who would benefit from her Presidency. She is an accomplished attorney, a two-term Senator and a former Secretary of State. She is a strong supporter of women's equality and LGBT rights. She's pragmatic and realistic. She identifies herself as a progressive. And time after time, in speeches and debates, she points out how unrealistic her opponent's proposals are.
And yet, something's missing. Her opponent talks about "revolution" and a "movement." He has a vision, realistic or not, of an America where everything is equal and the rich take care of the poor. He sees us having free healthcare and free education and a society where Wall Street shares power with Main Street. He, like her, wants equal pay for all, women and LGBT rights and racial justice. But somehow, his message is getting through and hers is not. We see his vision but we don't see hers. Great leaders have a way of persuading others to see and share the same vision. How else to get them to follow?
"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."
She isn't genuine.
Having a vision is critical for leadership but just as critical is the belief in the leader's commitment to that vision. The voters that support Ms. Clinton's opponent believe that he has principles and believes in his vision. He is older and more passionate and seems to have less to lose. He has a lifetime record of activities, from anti-war protests to singing folk songs (yes, folk songs) that back up his passion. He is not afraid to upset those very people who could hurt him financially. He appears to be doing what he's doing not for the money or the power or the glory but because he really believes in his principles. And because of all of this, he comes across as genuine. Great leaders are genuine in their beliefs.
Which is another reason why Ms. Clinton is struggling. She has not lived a life that backs up her stated beliefs. She has a record, true or not, of discrepancies, inaccuracies and - it's hard to put it any other way - shenanigans that give the impression that it's not her beliefs that drive her, but other, more material reasons. She has been paid huge amounts of money by the very people and companies that she says are the cause of our country's problems. And, she continuously appears to be dodging, hiding and evading...something? Too many people seem to distrust her. We want our leaders to be trustworthy, honest, open and genuine--traits that few of us can claim. We expect that our leaders, even the most cutthroat and evil, will do what they say they're going to do. And Clinton is failing here too.
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
Finally, and most importantly, she's just not enjoying herself.
Even Churchill knew that many of his voting public were a bunch of lunatics. But he took it in stride and with tongue-in-cheek. Most of us couldn't do this. That because for most of us, running for President and having to endure these crazy voters seems like a terrible job. Which is why it's not just the passion and experience and money and intelligence we look for in our leaders. It's an attitude. We expect our leaders to be having some fun. We expect them to be enjoying their jobs every single day, regardless of whether we can do the same in our jobs. They don't have to be laughing every moment. But they need to look like they wouldn't want to be doing anything else.
Clinton looks like she wants to be doing something else. Every candid YouTube video of her greeting voters and "chatting" looks painful and awkward. She doesn't look like she wants to be there. She doesn't look like she's having any fun. She avoids the press. Her campaign is tightly scheduled to minimize surprises. Her efforts to appear cool and hip and relaxed when she appears on the Tonight Show and other pop culture events come off as a bit staged, scripted and automated. Her husband seemed to relish his time in the spotlight. Ronald Reagan was at his best when with a crowd. Even Barack Obama comes across as more relaxed and happier when he's out of the White House. Good leaders may not be enjoying all that they do all the time. But they have the ability to keep this from the public and instead project an air of positivity and optimism.
Are you making the same leadership mistakes Clinton is making? I hope not. These mistakes are killing her business so far. And they could be killing yours too.