Lead, Don’t Pander

Lead, Don’t Pander

We now interrupt the corporate brand discussion to cover a more appropriate MLK day topic, leadership.

I currently live in South Carolina, which means that for the past 2 weeks, I have had the strange experience of being bombarded by presidential ads that are NOT meant for me. When I lived in Austin, I could count on one hand the number of people I knew who were natives – almost everyone had relocated from another part of the state, country or world because of the remarkable lifestyle and employment opportunities there. On the flip side, I know very few people who are transplants to South Carolina and the candidates tailored messages accordingly.

As far as I can tell, all of the candidates made South Carolina-specific broadcast pieces and ran them until I curled up in a ball and cried uncle (1 week to go for the Dems). Republican ads hit the following messages in a big, repetitive way – I’m a Christian, I’m pro-life, I will protect the country. The manner in which they covered those points seemed almost condescending to me but I shrugged it off as “I’m not the target, they’re probably good ads”. In thinking that, I am as guilty as the candidates for underestimating my neighbors. NBC filmed a great interview Saturday night with a Christian study group in Columbia, South Carolina whose members said they were offended by the way the candidates were trying to use religion to gloss over their plans to deal with the very real & complex issues facing the nation. They didn’t understand how being photographed with a big cross in the background should supersede the need for them to understand candidate positions on long term plans for Iraq, the economy and illegal immigration. Sharing a common gender, race, college, sports team, or even religion is no guarantee that common values about the future of the country are shared.

I am no political pundit, but I think there is an opportunity for the candidate who wants to put a little faith in the intelligence of the American voter – even those in the “backward” southern states. Great leaders don’t rise to positions of power by insinuating that their followers are of lesser intellect.

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