Being that every pundit who DARES to compare Michelle Bachmann to Sarah Palin is immediately labeled a sexist for not instead comparing Mitt Romney to Bachmann or Palin to Glenn Beck, I’m looking at them primarily for what they really do have in common: they are both two fascinating women over 40. How they DARE in different ways and how you can learn from them are my interests and should be yours – if you’re up for a promotion, job interview, town president, or if you are planning a campaign for a life do-over. So there’s my take on Bachmann vs. Palin, from the point of view of the twelve principles and practices I write about in my new book, Get DARE From Here!
Now, of course the politics of Bachmann and Palin are important, but every TV news channel, newspaper, and online forum is tearing into their platforms (as well as their personal lives). But I want to talk about their leadership style; their style as women over 40 who DARE to attempt something only a few women have tried to do, among them Elizabeth Dole and Hillary Clinton – not shy women, for sure. Contemplating running for the American Presidency takes an enormous level of guts, fortitude, and plain old thick skin.
Both of these women have DRIVE, both have the stamina to ADVANCE, certainly both of them want to RULE, and they both freely (and then some!) EXPRESS their expertise and experience. Both DARE-ING women, right? Not so fast.
Michelle Bachmann obviously has a Dream, and she is Dealing successfully with all the idiot questions and comments she is getting from the male-dominated media. (Reminds me a little of Maggie Thatcher, and there’s a DARE-ING woman to be reckoned with.) Bachmann also has a Design that she is implanting, with the help of some excellent advisors, many of them who used to advise some of her opponents. DARE-Head for sure.
Tip: Keep your friends close, and keep the friends of your enemies even closer, especially those who will work for you and divulge all those insights and ideas they learned from working with your enemies.
Palin needs to worry less about who is designing her clothes. Or at least not let on that she is! Was her Dream ever to really lead the free world, back when she was a weather girl or sportscaster? I doubt it. Having fallen into the VP nomination in 2008, as an opportunist, she ran with the ball. And I respect that – take opportunity where it presents itself! However, one attached and/or forever associated with such a powerful icon as John McCain, she fell prey to the assumption she didn’t have to do her homework and didn’t have to prepare for an interview with America’s “princess of perkiness” Katie Couric.
Tip: Never attach yourself to any man at any age – in your personal life or professional life – without identifying and staking out your best alternative and your exit strategy if it goes badly. And, for sure, never go on national television or any important meeting of your career without having done extensive research and preparation on the subject matter, the host’s agenda, and answers to the potential questions you might get asked. For goodness’ sake, rehearse your replies until you can see the words in front of your brain as you toss and turn the night before the big event. As for not sweating the small stuff: when you’re being considered for the biggest job of your entire career, there is no such thing as small stuff.
Bachmann’s Dream started early, as an attorney, foster-care provider, and community activist. And her grand Design is being taken seriously, now that she is being considered for the Republican presidential nomination. With all due respect, Palin’s Design seems to be more involved with her appearance, her clothes, her shoes.
Tip: Never let your clothing or hair become more prominent in discussions about you than your substantive contributions, unless you’re a super-model, hair-dresser or really a rock star. If that is the case, follow the examples of brands such as Christy Turlington, Heidi Klum and Lady GaGa – who will make millions from their very strategic approach to clothing and hair, long after their days as super-models, reality show hosts and pop stars are behind them.
Granted, Palin turned the rather disastrous 2008 campaign into political capital and created a brand for herself. But again, to me it seems to be too greatly based in celebrity status, more than intellectual power or true leadership quality. Bachman learned how to Reason a long time ago, in law school, and when she strays onto the crazy-train side of the tracks, she has a lawyer’s instinct to pull back.
Tip: Leaders with power and influence fall into one of three categories: transactional, charismatic or transformational. Decide with extreme deliberation which one you need and want to be. Like many women who go into politics, Bachman has decided to be transformational. Know what will work for you personally and in making you the effective leader you want to be.
Bachman has Accessed and Approached the right people to advise her, and knows how to Act in public and with her stakeholders. Palin, unfortunately, did not listen to Roger Ailes’ advice to remain quiet about offending Gabrielle Giffords, after the Congresswoman was viciously gunned down. Bachman, on the other hand, has learned how to Rally the right people around her for all the right Reasons so that they help her in her Reach and Rise in the political arena.
Tip: It’s been said that a little fear is a good thing. There is no doubt that female CEOs work harder at effecting a proper balance between being feared and being frightening. I hold out hope that the first female leader of the free world is more effective at inspiring fear and awe in America’s enemies than in frightening the very people she is elected to serve.
Rant, Rave, Roar – both women do that, but let’s remember who the powerful arguer is. Bachmann makes reasoned arguments, and she doesn’t present them against her Republican opponents. This is very shrewd strategy – she is being careful not to offend someone who could be her running mate, whether she is number 1 or number 2 on the ticket.
Tip: What smart CEOs – women and men – learn is that forging cooperative, collaborative and complementary working relationships with reasonable people, even if they don’t always agree on every principle and tactic, is essential to their success. In fact, studies show that the inability to forge productive reciprocal relationships is the key reason why newly appointed CEOs fail, which costs organizations millions of dollars.
Bachman has engaged smart advisors for her presidential run, realizing that running for leader of the free world comes with a whole new set of RULES.
I am not endorsing either woman for political office, and whether I would vote for either is not the point. But I do have to commend Michelle Bachmann. She arrives at the scene as an accomplished woman over 40 with fortitude. She has DRIVE. If she stops filibustering about her migraine headaches, she’ll likely ADVANCE. She is learning the RULES – and how to leverage them to her advantage – and she continues to be the one to EXPRESS her Experience and Expertise with considered and appropriate DARE-ING.