In part three of Dr. Carol Geffner's interview with The Right Honourable Charles Clarke, they discuss how leaders, especially in politics, can lead with integrity by thinking through what they represent and who they are trying to be.
How does self-discovery impact political leadership?
The Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke: In the case of politics, it's particularly important, because many people, as they come into politics, from the moment they put themselves in front of a selection conference, or an event in their own party, or in the primary, whatever it might be, manufacture themselves according to what they think the electorate wants to see and that comes apart.
If you're taking people through and say, 'Well, really, who are you? What are you about? What are your views and values?' It enables them to think through what they're doing. It can be difficult. It's psychological. People have to think about what they represent, who they are trying to be.
"You shouldn't want to have an office simply to be the seat holder, but because of something you want to achieve."
What leadership questions should aspiring leaders ask themself?
The Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke: “What are my values,” is a central question for any leader, certainly a politician. “What are my ambitions and goals? What is my strategy in life? What am I trying to achieve in politics?”
Many people want to occupy an office, to be a senator, to be a president. For me, that's not enough. You have to occupy that office because you want to do something: you want to change society, you want to promote environmentalism, human rights, entrepreneurship, or whatever it may be. You shouldn't want to have an office simply to be the seat holder, but because of something you want to achieve.
Now, the way you're saying you construct your course, that [self-discovery process] is something that you want to do could only come from inside you, about what you believe, what's been your life story. Great political leaders are people who are trying to take something in that way, promote it, and project it in a different kind of way.
Dr. Geffner: I wish I had known you and we had this discussion about 30 years ago, because I always thought I would never go into politics, because I wanted to be authentic and I didn't feel as if I could ever do that.
Integrity in Leadership
Dr. Geffner: We're also seeing the telltale signs in this country of what happens when people are not feeling as though politicians are speaking authentically. We're watching, in our country, the dismay and the lowest levels of trust in politicians. We don't see many role models anymore of people who are living with honesty and integrity in leadership, living their values, speaking their values, and willing to go to the mat on them.
How can political leaders be role models and lead with integrity?
The Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke: I think that's very interesting. The problem you are describing is, also, a problem in the UK. It's not simply a US problem. But a lot of young students come and ask me, "Should I have a life in politics, what I want to do."
Some of them are bedazzled by the celebrity of being in politics. And I say well fine but that isn't why you should go into politics. It's because you want to do something. And then you have to have a very hard headed assessment of what you're good at, which in some cases you might want to achieve your goals by being congressman or congresswoman. In some cases by being an official working for a government department. In some cases by being an advocate either formally as a lawyer or an advocate for a cause or a campaign.
And you have to think what are your skills, what are you suited to doing in this range of things operating in different ways? My central, bottom line message is always, if you're interested in doing it, go into it. Politics is a great life and it's something worth doing.
If you decided some years ago that politics wasn't going to be for you, than I'm sorry about that because it would have been great for you to feel that you could carry authenticity through into making a difference in the way you wanted to make a difference.
Executive Master of Leadership Interview Series
In case you missed our previous articles with The Right Honourable Charles Clarke, make sure you check out Part 1 and 2!
- Change Leadership: How Great Leaders & Politicians Manage Change
- How to Stay True to Yourself: Characteristics of Authentic Leadership