The Art of Campaigning

When we think of the concept of campaigning we often think of leaders standing on a platform heralding their unique virtues. We think of the old days of jumping from train station to train station–kissing babies, eating cheeseburgers, and watching a late night movie in the hotel room while reviewing tomorrow’s meetings.

And that’s exactly what campaigning is: long, hard, work. Ask anyone who has walked through the snows of Iowa or been caught in an ice storm in New Hampshire on a campaign trail.  But campaigning is more than that–it’s also a state of mind that essentially starts with a focused goal and the knowledge that you need to get people on your side in order to accomplish it.

Leaders in any setting enter a campaign mode when they have a focused direction which they understand cannot be achieved without rallying others to their position. The backbone of any campaign are the tactics that underline a leaders capacity to get people on their side.

Of late we’ve been rallying around the notion of change–change we can believe in, change for our times, change for our organization, change for the 21st century, and the list goes on–change is all over the place. In academia we talk about leading for change. Well, what other type of leadership is there–leading for holding things constant? Leading for doing nothing?

As political scientists pointed out years ago–leadership implies action or lack of action, it implies change or lack of change, as its focal point. This implies that the critical skills for change leadership is having the capacity to bring people to your position–it implies the capacity to enhance coalitions, lead them, and sustain them.

Point in fact, change leaders are running campaigns and this demands a vigilant attention to micro-skills that will keep people in your corner. It will demand immense interaction skills, superb negotiation skills, and yes, even in the work place–a cheeseburger or two.

Staying in a campaign mode is indeed exhausting–while you may not have to trek in icy New Hampshire a certain degree of awareness, a certain calculation, indeed a healthy bit of paranoia, is necessary.

So if you want to look to individuals who have led change don’t just look to Bill Clinton–look to his campaign manager Jim Carville. Don’t  just look to George W. Bush–look at Ken Mehlman. Don’t just look at Barack Obama–look at David Plouffe.

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The Daily Show & The Dialogue of Execution

The absence of problem-solving in today’s Government comes from the inability of Congress or the President to achieve any form of balanced collaboration and conversation.  When people and ideas are brought together for collective endeavors, the conversation needs to be complicated by divergent opinions and perspectives, meaningful dissent, and distinctive contributions.  Only after this process can ideas be strengthened, placed in realistic and pragmatic terms…then executed.

Where does this balance actually happen today in our civil society?

The answer is pretty clear for most college students.  Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

In an age where unproductive and hyper-partisan talking points drown out the dialogue necessary for the incubation, innovation, and implementation of real policy ideas, The Daily Show continues to offer a forum for comprehensive debate on the problems America faces today.

In a recent interview with Bill Clinton, The Daily Show host John Stewart articulates how the current paralysis in Washington DC is rooted not by the lack of proposed solutions, but by the lack of depth of in how proposed solutions are presented to the American People.

The race-to-the-bottom competition over which party can offer the least substance to voters is becoming pathetically apparent to Stewart and his viewers around the country. The Daily Show’s uncanny ability to sift through the partisan garbage and generate substance in conversation may be the reason why so many of our respected leaders from Newt Gingerich to Bill Clinton to Mike Bloomberg choose to be guests on The Daily Show before going on the Sunday Morning Talk Shows. In a twist, the humorous model of presenting the news has become more serious than its traditional counterpart.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Bill Clinton Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

Photo Credit: Lubs Mary