Do Our Presidential Candidates Have the Right Training?

By the time one proposes to run for President, you hope they have the right training for the job, but the current Democratic and Republican nomination races suggest that this may be far from true. Over the past six months, Americans have witnessed candidates’ foibles, gaffs and compliance errors. We have also listened to misleading, false and fabricated claims along with a staggering number of discriminatory remarks made by front runners on the campaign trail. Perhaps most surprising is the fact that none of the candidates nor political parties have an entirely pristine track record. Indeed, from a training perspective, there is little question that no current presidential candidate should be entirely exempt from additional training. In this post, we take stock of the presidential candidates’ errors and oversights so far and prescribe a unique workplace training program for just some of the many candidates currently vying to fill President Obama’s shoes.

Do Our Presidential Candidates Have the Right Training?

Jeb Bush—Anger Management is Vital to Effective Leadership

Going into the Republican nomination race, Jeb Bush was the natural front runner. With his political experience, team of seasoned advisers, ample financial backing and recognized family brand, Bush had a lot on his side. His performance, however, has proven largely lackluster. While it is difficult to pinpoint where Bush’s campaign went awry, his anger management problems have certainly not helped matters. In October, he complained: “If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want anything, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.” Thus, while Bush has been widely criticized for being too moderate—on the political spectrum—he has proven not moderate enough on the emotional spectrum. For Bush, there is no question that a bit of anger management training may be in order.

Ben Carson—You Don’t Build Trust with Lies

Early on in his campaign, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson repeatedly said that he once turned down a “full scholarship” to the United States Military Academy at West Point. In fact, West Point does not offer scholarships because it is free, and there was no evidence that he had ever applied to the military academy. Lying to make oneself appear more qualified than they are for a specific job is never a good idea and bound to catch up with the fabricator over time. Of course, Carson’s limitations do not end with his tendency to fabricate details about his own personal history. During a late 2015 debate, he suggested the Chinese government was backing ISIS. On the home front, he has associated the LGBT community with beastiality and suggested gay marriage will ultimately promote polygamy. Is it any surprise that his leadership team started to crumble in late 2015? For Dr. Carson the list of possible workplace training courses is extensive. To begin, he may benefit from completing a series of training courses on the importance of trust and how to build it. Dr. Carson may also benefit from a few refresher courses on research. There is no question, after all, that there have been some notable gaps in Dr. Carson’s claims. Finally, while Dr. Carson was initially celebrated as a welcome addition to an otherwise predominately white field of candidates, his track record on diversity issues has proven weak. Specifically, Dr. Carson might benefit from learning more about LGBT issues and how to be an ally.

Hillary Clinton—Compliance Isn’t Going Away

At the risk of beating a dead horse, when it comes to Hillary Clinton it’s difficult to ignore the dark cloud that has hung over much of her presidential nomination campaign. As everyone now knows, Clinton used a private email server to send emails (some personal and some related to government affairs) while serving as Secretary of State. We also know Clinton has taken responsibility for the act, emphasizing that while she may have exercised poor judgment, she did not in fact break any rules. But was Clinton actually in compliance? Some legal experts insisted that despite her claims, she had not complied with government policies. In the end, of course, Clinton’s grueling day on the witness stand not only exonerated her from any serious wrongdoing but also proved to be an impressive display of her ability to speak persuasively and keep her cool under extreme pressure. While the email scandal did not kill Clinton’s bid to become the next President of the United States, given that she has openly admitted to exercising poor judgment by using a private email server, for Clinton, we’re recommending additional compliance training.

Ted Cruz—It’s Never Too Late to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

Beyond critics questions about Ted Cruz’s origin (for the record, he was born in Canada to an American mother, which means that he is eligible to run for President), Cruz has continuously fumbled when it comes to problem solving. How should we address ISIS? According to Cruz, we should “carpet bomb” any city in which they have gained a foothold, even if civilians are put at risk. How should we address the recognition of gay marriage? As recently as last April, Cruz called upon Americans to pray against a court decision legalizing gay marriage. How should we reform education in the U.S.? According to Cruz, we should abolish the U.S. Department of Education. All signs point to the fact that this presidential hopeful has yet to develop complex problem solving skills, so for Cruz, a crash course in problem solving may go a long way.

Bernie Sanders—Soft Skills Are Valued Too

While many voters find Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders endearing and inspiring, his soft skills have been subject to critique. Indeed, on October 31, 2015, the New York Times ran a story with a headline that appeared to sum up Sanders’ approach: “Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Kiss Babies. That a Problem?” The same article described Mr. Sanders approach as “rushed” and reported: “He rarely drops by diners or coffee shops with news cameras in tow, unlike most politicians. He hardly ever kisses babies, aides say, and does not mingle much at fund-raisers. To Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, political schmoozing is a phony business, and anathema to his total focus on weighty issues.” While Sanders may have a point—schmoozing can be insincere—in a world where soft skills increasingly are valued, his approach may also be out of touch with the times. Associated with one’s EQ or emotional intelligence, soft skills, which include but are not limited to communication skills, the ability to express empathy and the ability to be flexible (this includes the ability to compromise), are no longer seen as flaky nor incompatible with great leadership. For Sanders, then, a crash course in soft skills and their value seems to be in order and will likely serve him well as he goes head-to-head against Clinton in the Democratic leadership race.

Donald Trump—Discrimination and Harassment Are No Laughing Matter

While there are many potential workplace training courses that could help Mr. Trump, given that in just a few short months he has already alienated a wide range of minority groups—women, Latino-Americans, immigrants and anyone from a Muslim background among others—in Trump’s case, it seems best to prioritize and focus on increasing his awareness and sensitivity to people from different backgrounds. For this reason, there is no question that diversity training must be part of Trump’s training program. In addition to diversity training, however, given Trump’s crude remarks about Hilary Clinton following the recent Democrat debate (remarks that don’t need to be repeated here), harassment training is also highly recommended. Whether Trump complies with his recommended training program, of course, is another question. Anyone charged with overseeing Trump’s training program may want to first read Understanding Barriers to Training: How to Train People Who Don’t Want to be Trained and watch the video, How to Work with Difficult People.

Marco Rubio—Don’t Pass the Buck on Financial Management

Marco Rubio, the youngest candidate in either race, has gathered momentum throughout his campaign and continues to do so, but is he ready for the job? While it is illegal, in most states, to use job candidates’ credit histories as a hiring criteria, in Rubio’s case, there is a long history of mixing personal and professional finances and this may make his financial management record fair game. For example, he once used a Republican Party credit card to have his home driveway paved and on another occasion, he reportedly used the same credit card to travel to a family reunion. There are also reports that he has at times put his relatives, even his wife, on the payroll. Even if we set Rubio’s personal financial decisions aside (e.g., prematurely liquidating a retirement fund—a move that would have resulted in a huge tax penalty—and selling a home at a loss rather than waiting for a market rebound), there’s ample evidence that his financial management skills may be lacking in precision, judgment and strategy. For Rubio, we’re recommending additional training in financial management and given his track record of using his work credit card for personal expenses, additional regulation and compliance training may be in order too.

 

 

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