Happy Presidents’ Day. We all love to worship an idealized version of our leaders—the guy in the top hat or the guy with the wig (and maybe one day the lady in the pantsuit). But what if you were president, what would you do? Could you do it? Could you handle the stress of it? Yes, your hair would go grey in four years, don’t deny it.
I was thinking about what to write for Presidents’ Day and I remembered how often I’ve said to myself, “At least I’m not Barack Obama.” But as a leader of a company, there are similar pressures and challenges, high expectations and hopes that, in some ways, can never be met in real life. Would your behavior today change if you knew what it really takes to be president? If you were in the same spot as the president, what would you do?
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself, because the truth is, even if you’ll never be president, you are a part of the whole experience for the leader of the nation. And perhaps putting yourself in a president’s shoes for a few minutes might make you a more effective citizen in this democracy.
1. Could you handle being ridiculed, made fun of, mocked, and mimicked on the national news, Twitter, and Saturday Night Live? How do you think that would feel?
2. How would you transform a situation—let’s just say a “red line” situation—where there is no clear, easy answer? Would you resort to force or to some other technique? What is more important, ego and status or real resolution and results? It’s extremely easy to have an opinion. It’s extremely hard to be the person who has to make a decision.
3. How would you balance the desperate needs around our future ability to live on this planet with the desperate needs of people living today, in this country? Is there a solution that works for both? What would that look like?
4. Could you resist the bullying pressure of threatening industries that tie campaign donations to favoritism? It’s easy to say yes to this one, until you’ve been in a situation where you’ve felt threatened. Especially by people who are experts at threatening in a way that seems really, really, really appealing and desirable. I mean, we have to feed the world and power the whole economy, don’t we?
5. What kind of world do you want to create for your fellow citizens to live in? Because at the end of the day, great presidents don’t just respond and react to what’s happening around them; they create a new vision of where we’re heading and what is possible. Think the Gettysburg Address, the New Deal, and the Space Program.
Think about it. What would you do if you were president? Happy Presidents’ Day.