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published on October 12, 2016 - 7:36 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
I was sitting at my regular Monday noon meeting of the Downtown Rotary Club with fellow Rotarian and Publisher of The Business Journal Gordie Webster when he said, “Now that you are retired as presidential CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, why don’t you think about offering an occasional blog for our publication?”

 

We discussed what ingredients would qualify me to step into this influential presidential position at Fresno Chamber of Commerce.
 
In over a decade of Fresno Chamber of Commerce leadership, combined with 47 years of managing small- to medium-sized businesses in the radio/TV broadcast arena, I had the privilege of observing elements of what allowed certain companies success while others floundered.
 
From that experience, it’s possible that I might have acquired a few nuggets of organizational elements that readers might benefit from. Things observed and practiced — the good, the bad and unfortunately a few of the uglies of the presidential candidate.
 
So, with that as a background, I offer up my first contribution to the BJ blog page.
 
Ask me what is the single-most important element that has made the difference between success and failure, my answer would quickly be a company’s leadership.
 
There is a direct connection between turning a company’s vision — what they say they want to be — into the skills necessary to implement them.
 
So just what makes up a great leader? The person that I want to follow is one who wants me to succeed. The leader inspires through example, character, empathy, passion, sharing and most importantly, trust. Is the leader trustworthy? Lose trust and everything else falls apart.
 
Authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner point out, “In almost every survey conducted, honesty (trust) has been selected more often than any other leadership characteristic.”
 
Look at what is happening in the largest leadership position in the world — the U.S. presidency.
 
If trust is the No. 1 characteristic, how will this nation successfully follow either of the leading candidates whose trust element is suspect?
 
Because of political posturing — soundbites, tweets, debates — it is difficult to figure out exactly who is the real Clinton or the real Trump.
 
Like Obamacare’s “pass the legislation to find out what is in it,” are the American people having to accept the same with the presidency? Take a chance with our vote, hoping that whomever is elected delivers to us positive leadership traits?
 
The Clinton critics will claim that regardless of her experience as first lady, senator and secretary of state, she will embrace anti-business regulations, give us continuing controversy, questionable judgement on important issues and will be a disciple of bigger government.
 
In spite of achieving enormous (but suspect) business success, Trump critics claim he has no government experience, is hot headed, insulting, narcissistic, overpromising and detached from reality.

In electing Clinton, one might hope that she is more middle of the road than she has been forced to articulate (pressured by Bernie). If presented the opportunity, she would appoint candidates for the Supreme Court that will keep a more balanced ideological weight and would utilize her decades of Washington experience to move toward a more consensus government.
 
In electing Trump, you hope his success as a business person — where he had to negotiate business deals, visualize opportunities, motivate employees, balance with both sides of a deal so that everyone wins — represents the real leadership elements
 
What is a person to do?  How do you strip away all of the noise of accusations and political posturing to make an intelligent decision?
 
And, how does either begin to establish trust with the American people?
 
It is hard to un-ring a bell or bend back a bent twig. Both candidates have a huge task ahead of them in displaying a comforting level of support from its citizens.
 
The good news is that American history has survived weak leadership. So, whichever the real person is, good or bad, we as a nation must be sensitive to their impact ensuring that if negative, it is short lived.  It’s scary, but doable.
 
I would hope both would want to echo the advice of business guru Ken Blanchard. “Leadership is not something you do to people, it is something you do with them.”
 
May God bless America.

Al Smith, former president and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, serves as a leadership coach for local companies as part of the John C. Maxwell leadership training program. For more information, contact Smith at alsmith@alsmithpartners.com.

 


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