In this season of pending elections for every position from local dog catcher to the Presidency of the United States have you taken the appropriate amount of time to examine your personal criteria of what you believe constitutes true leadership?

How thoroughly have you observed and intently listened to the individuals who present themselves as supposedly worthy candidates for what are clearly significant and important roles that require authentic leadership?

Do the words, actions and deeds of these candidates accurately reflect the core values and beliefs that you yourself hold dear and consider to be non-negotiable? Then it may be in your own best interest as well of that of your community and nation for you to first closely examine your personal values and beliefs and refresh yourself as to exactly what it is that you personally “stand for”.

You may actually find that you need to clarify exactly how you would define what (not who) a “leader” is. In this interest, allow me to offer you a measuring tool for defining the very essence of what a leader truly is. In the words of the 6th President of the United States, John Quincy Adams… “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

So, exactly who is it that is inspiring you to dream bigger goals for your life, to keep growing and learning and to become the person that you are truly capable of becoming? In all likelihood, it’s probably not any of the political candidates who are currently running for office.

In many ways Leadership 101 has become a lot like Sales 101 in that they now share a common point of ethical concern. Early in my sales career I was taught a foundational sales axiom which essentially stated that “If all you have to offer your prospective customer is your ability to knock your competition… then you don’t have much to sell.”

When you consider how our current day politics are so steeped in negative campaign advertisements and tactics, the political candidates much like the least competent sale representative… sure don’t appear to have anything of value to sell to the American people.

Take a moment to carefully consider your own life, are you personally going to willingly follow a superior at work or an officer in a civic organization if you can’t fully “trust” them? Are your children going to give you, their teacher, coach or scout master their allegiance as a leader if they have reason to not trust them? Would you expect them to? Then why would you on Election Day?

Authentic leaders simply don’t deal in innuendoes, slurs and aspersions. The attribute and issue of trust is far too important, while concurrently being a foundational tenant of life, family and community. How then will you come to grips with the slate of candidates and referendum issues that will soon be before you in the voting booth? It is important to realize that just like every other decision that you make, there will either be a reward for making the right decision or a real consequence for making the wrong decision. In either event, you will have to live with the outcome of these decisions for the next four years.

In a sense it’s kind of like buying an automobile from the sales representative down at your local car dealership… In that you will have to walk out your front door every morning to find that car staring back at you for the next four years and all the while keep right on making the monthly payments that you signed up for. And if you made such a purchase based on emotion, you will undoubtedly need to justify your actions with logic in order to ease your own self inflicted pain.

Hopefully, your voting decisions will be far more pragmatic as the elected officials that you do ultimately choose to cast your vote for… They too will be waiting for you bright and early each new day on the morning news.

Copyright © 2012 Developing Forward | Thomas H. Swank, CBC | All Rights Reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Tom is a trusted business advisor, author and founder of The Leadership Academy. Get Tom’s FREE CD “Your Top 7 Success Strategies for 2012 and Beyond” at