Politics, DNA, and how to fail at Leadership & Teamwork

While Democrats tout their gains to be made come Election Day 2018, and the numbers show they have good reason to be more than a little giddy, they do so at their own arrogant peril. Three events recently prove why Dems need to get their heads out of the organizational muck, and understand a simple reality about politics here in the 21st century.

More than ever before, this is a game. A competition. A team event, if you will. And thus far, there’s notable evidence that, to put it mildly, they just don’t get it.

Avoidable mistakes can indeed turn the tide in every single competition. Whether it’s wearing pads or wearing pins, the biggest part of every game is to not make the stunningly mindless errors.

Yes, I did not want to use the word “dumb”. Granny said it wasn’t nice to use that word, though were she alive today, I believe she would make exceptions in the current state of America and her politics.

Sports, whether played individually or in a team concept, is all about preparation. Those who do the hard work until it burns into their muscle memory have the greatest chance at succeeding. Make one mistake, one critical error, you’re burning up in the competitive toaster.

What makes this all the more head shaking are those mistakes that not just could have been avoided, but with a modicum of thought and simple attention to detail, should never have even come close to breathing public air.

Every instance connected directly to the abject failure of those who are supposed to, at all times, have the candidates back. The support staff, allegedly the “smartest people in the room”.

The team.

These cases, however, also point to the arrogance of many a candidate, leaders that often refuse advice because they often claim to “know it all” and have “seen it all”.

More often than not, they don’t, and they haven’t.

Political hazmat for Heitkamp

Heidi Heitkamp had about as much chance of unseating Republican Kevin Cramer in North Dakota as the State being touted in vacation guides as having some of the best beaches in the world. This despite the fact a number of his fellow Republicans wish Cramer would have kept his mouth shut with certain inflammatory comments during the Brett Kavanaugh proceedings.

However, we’ve come to live with the current political sphere where insults and invectives last about as long as the odoriferous aroma of a bison passing wind on the plains.

Heitkamp’s campaign went after Cramer with a newspaper ad centered on the national conversation about the treatment of women and sexual assault, calling out Cramer for his comments and stand on the issue.

There were only 120 things wrong with the ad.

Those 120 names of women, some misidentified as survivors of abuse, most, if not all, printed without their permission.

With so many tentacles in every campaign, it’s likely Heitkamp had no clue what was even going into the ad.

Sorry, but that won’t fly. No excuse. None. The ad comes with her name, her endorsement, and thus, the buck stopped with her. It made for a level of damage control that was equally as bad as the mistake itself.

Naturally, a low level staffer was selected to take the blame and was summarily bounced, giving Cramer, Republicans, and their media arm the opportunity to rightfully gloat over the mistake and politically pile drive Heitkamp further into the North Dakota polling soil.

We’re then led to believe it was one person, just one, in charge of this ad? If that’s really the case, there’s yet another slice of evidence of how badly run this specific campaign is. Something like this has to be vetted several times and then re-vetted again, maybe a third time, before seeing the light of day.

More than one person screwed up and will forever carry the aroma of this error with them. Heitkamp? She’ll likely recover and seek to shovel political dirt another day. However, she needs to do a better job of picking her support team next time or she’ll be permanently shoveling something else.

Shalala gags on the political Cafe Con Leche

Having been part of the South Florida community as President at the University of Miami for fourteen years, you figure Donna Shalala would know all too well the political landscape in certain political areas of the diverse landscape there.

There is no more powerful and passionate band of constituents than the Cuban-American community and the Latino voter. Perhaps because their roots are firmly planted in societies where having a vote was impossible, they take that trek to the ballot box much more seriously than a good number of native born and second/third generation Americans.

So coming down the stretch in an election where she was seen as a likely heir apparent to the departing Democrat, and with just a couple of percentage points separating her and the opponent, Shalala became the focal point of a particularly egregious mistake made by those around her.

The announcement is made Shalala would make a campaign appearance with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and California Representative Barbara Lee. The uninitiated outside of South Florida will shrug collective shoulders and say, “so what?”

Lee in 2016 had gone on record mourning the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. In South Florida, that would be akin to standing in a room of Holocaust survivors extolling the virtues of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

In one split second, Shalala had gone from being the Democrats best hope to keep a critical seat to having political Kryptonite woven into her DNA.

No one on her staff had done the legwork. No one had done the research to learn everything they could about Lee. Everyone, and you can hear this one coming, “assumed” there would be nothing to worry about with the most powerful Democrat in the House bringing a colleague along for the ride.

Wait. It get worse.

Both Shalala and staff were then caught in ham-handed efforts to keep from insulting Pelosi while at the same time seeking to mollify Hispanic voters. These same geniuses allowed her to take part in a debate with her opponent that was entirely in Spanish, a language Shalala does not have a firm grasp of.

Supporters were running from Shalala so fast you could smell the rubber burning.

Shalala may still win the seat being vacated by the departing Democrat Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Hey, this is politics at a national and local scale we’ve never experienced before in American history. You likely could have a candidate walk into a crowded public place, shoot someone, and get away with it.

Wait. That’s already been talked about.

Shalala placed her political fortunes in the hands of those who failed miserably at doing the little things. Simple informational research. Knowing everything there is to know, not only about the opponent, but about yourself and your efforts. When fortunes teeter on the smallest piece of information, the well-prepared and smart coach leaves nothing to chance. You delegate, ensuring every angle is covered.

In Shalala’s case, far too much was allowed to slip deep into the cracks. It also reveals how much authority she placed in the hands of others, while no matter how much is on her plate, again, the buck stops with her. Leaders drive themselves to have a handle on important decisions. You hire the people you trust to do the job, but you always keep one eye focused on the effort that carries with it your name and reputation.

Warren drives political stake into heart of future POTUS campaign

People honestly thought Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was smarter than this. But in the end, she gaffed badly on one of the main tenets of not just political campaigns, but in the world of doing simple business at any level while protecting your brand and image.

She took the bait. Now, she’s forever tainted by a decision that someone on her staff should have stopped her from making. Stand on her desk and wail like a banshee. Fall to the floor and pout like an infant. Look her straight in the eyes and tell her without question she’s politically swimming with the fishes.

But whether no one on her staff and inner circle had the intestinal fortitude to do it, or Warren is such an egotist that she refused to listen to anyone but her own badly tuned gut instincts, no one emerges from the “DNA Dance” more a loser than she.

Donald Trump has been goading and taunting Warren over claims of her Native American heritage since early days of the Presidential campaign. Profoundly racist and demeaning to native Americas, Trump and his supporters latched on to Warren’s claims dating back to a 2012 NPR interview about family stories of Native American roots deep in her family tree, and weaponized those comments into a scar that runs deep with more than just those of tribal descent.

In recent months, the entire issue had seemingly passed into legend. There were greater discourses to be had, and Warren was without question preparing the groundwork for a 2020 run at the Presidency. Evidence was there was progress being made, and despite her claims of not seeking that higher office, DC insiders have known better for some time. Warren herself finally had to go public and put her POTUS train on the tracks.

And then, the publicized and ballyhooed DNA test results release.

In the history of present day American politics, there has not been a more bone-headed move by someone in a position of power and respect.

The rebukes were fast and furious, from the Cherokee Nation, well respected national columnists who were forced to turn this announcement into satire, Trump opponents who were forced into giving him credit for his political cunning, and of course, from Trump himself. The President had masterfully manipulated Warren and her handlers into a decision that will forever rank as one of the least intelligent markers on a modern day campaign trail.

Hook. Line. Sinker.

When the buck stops, ensure it doesn’t run you over

This column will no doubt be assailed by certain factions calling it something to the effect of a “right wing attack on democracy”, and there will be accolades from other factions deeming it a “righteous attack on left wing socialists”.

Of course, it is neither.Term it thusly, and you’ve missed the entire point of this commentary. Should that be the case, I can’t help you. I am forced to rely on at least a modicum of common sense and a desire to learn.

Losers in life are those who always believe they have all the answers, that they need no one’s counsel to succeed. Those who fail are often the people who hire and employ the weak of mind and spirit, little more than bag carriers and head-nodders. Most times, those acolytes are turned into decision zombies by leaders who want nothing more than affirmation and plenty of ass kissing.

Politics, and life, are indeed team events. You cannot and will not succeed without the unique talents of those behind and alongside you.

President Harry Truman, whose admonition that “The Buck Stops Here” is one I used in this treatise and in many other commentaries, also said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”.

Merge that with words from the single greatest competitive leadership genius I ever had the opportunity to interview and watch work first hand, former NBA coach Phil Jackson.

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team”.

Quality leadership comes from those who not merely hire the best and brightest to be part of their effort, but then who are open to listening when those people speak. Who walk into every situation knowing there’s a very good chance their ideas and conclusions won’t be the best thing for success.

From those on the team, there is nothing more critical than a bravery that has been instilled by those leaders. To never fear speaking up and casting what might be a counter vote to the process. To not be a sheep, when a lion is needed.

In these three cases, all those rules were fractured. Leadership failed. The teams failed. In the end, the efforts themselves may fail when they began with such promise.

More than just Democrats should heed these lessons. The end result, success, should always be bipartisan.

Your choice.

ROCK ON, TRUE BELIEVERS.

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2018-10-25T14:06:44+00:00