When you look for a leader, what do you want? Character or Charisma? And what is it about this particular choice, character vs. charisma, that is so challenging? In looking at this year’s election, for me, this has become the most important of choices.
We all know, a truly charismatic person is able to wrap us in the warmth of their ideas, manipulating us into acceptance, and motivating us towards an end. Likewise, a person of great character is the reassuring figure that comforts us with the solid nature of their morals and ideals, sheltering us from challenges, and charting a clear path forward. History is rich with individuals who have embodied these attributes. The Dalai Lama is known for his character and humble approach to solving the world’s problems. Adolf Hitler’s charisma galvanized a nation, drew it up from recession, and yet, led the world to war. But, I wouldn’t consider either of them to be good candidates for election.
I’m sure we have all had someone in our own lives that is a great example of each of these traits. I remember a high school biology teacher, that was clearly brilliant, but was so devoid of character that the class simply became a time period to just get through. I remember a high school history teacher that was so lively and animated that everyone wanted to be in his class. And the class was fun, but I do not remember any of the content of the class. And then there was Mr. Parker, my fifth grade teacher. Here was a man that excited me about learning, established class rules for everyone to abide by, and demonstrated not only his command of the subjects, but also his ability to inspire each student to greater heights. Whether it was through reports about the states (I did Hawaii), simulated government roles, or basic commerce, he found the way to inspire each of us. He had both charisma AND character. And much like the back and forth movements of the Cha-Cha, he was able to constantly adjust to guide us all forward.
When I look at who I want as a leader, I want the person that can inspire me to achieve the example that they have set. When I walk into the voting booth and make my choices, that ability to dance across character and charisma, will be the determining factor on who gets my vote. I didn’t omit the names of the high school teachers to protect them from criticism. I left their names out simply because they were not able to make a lasting impression on me. But Mr. Parker, he did. And now more than 30 years later, I still remember.
Hey Mr. Parker! Ever thought about running for office?