Running for political office seems like an attractive option for many business leaders. The idea of providing public service and making meaningful change often excites them. But getting involved with politics brings its own sets of challenges and requires unique sacrifices. Rosa Scarcelli, CEO of Stanford Management, ran for the governor of Maine a few years ago and saw firsthand the inner workings of the political system, both positive and negative. On a recent episode of my podcast, YPO 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Scarcelli talked about the ups and downs of running for political office.
While Scarcelli, a member of Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), lost that race, she learned a great deal about the sacrifices and changes she had to make in her life to give it her best shot. She still thinks politics is a viable path for smart leaders if they go in with their eyes open. Here are a few things that Scarcelli thinks you should consider if you want to run for office.
1.Be ready to ask for money all the time.
Political campaigns only survive if you have sufficient money to back them up. They require asking for an influx of money on a 24/7 basis. "Financially, politics is taxing and ultimately people are raising money at an incredible clip. Luckily I've been fundraising for a long time, and it seemed natural to fundraise for myself," said Scarcelli. "But you have to be willing to be humble and ask for money all the time. And that is hard for people."
2. Check with your family first.
Business leaders like to keep their private lives private, but stepping into politics will pull away those curtains and let the media spotlight burst into your home. If you don't want your children exposed to not only being in the public eye, but also seeing their parent getting attacked on television, then it might be time to reconsider. On top of that, make sure your spouse is 150% supportive, as Scarcelli advised, "[running for office] is not an endeavor you're going to undertake lightly and without complete family support."
3. Brace for hostility.
Everyone watching the current primary elections knows politics can get ugly, and fast. When Scarcelli started her campaign, she "really believed politicians were civil and had a high level of integrity," so she was unprepared for the hostile environment she was going to face. When running for office, you need to be ready to take attacks on your character and integrity. You must be strong on the inside to weather the abuse on the outside.
4. Keep a winning attitude but prepare to lose.
Unfortunately, not everyone wins in politics. In fact, few people actually win. Scarcelli explained how quickly the emotions can change at the ballot box. Those who come up with a winning strategy are in great shape. But if you lose, you need to consider what your life will look like once the polling is finished and it's time to go on with life.
Each week on his podcast, Kevin has conversations with members of the (YPO), the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.