Boot up Your Leader-Radar: Three Tips to Help You Watch Tonight’s Clinton-Trump Debate

There has been a lot of noise in the news about how the candidates are preparing for their debate tonight.

We’ve been asked to pay attention to issues about the moderator, alerted to Trump’s disdain for fact-checking, cautioned about Clinton’s costume, and the buzz is nothing if not confusing. Things have been made especially difficult because getting to policy discussions across the candidates’ positions has been next to impossible, between Trump’s insistence that he’ll hire people to sort out his goals if he’s elected, and the pumped-up scandals around Clinton’s health and email security.

Tonight, we might have a chance to gauge the kind of leaders they might be, and hear more about the leadership policies each candidate brings to the race. Here are three tips to help you get past the bombast and rhetoric, and clarify your November decision.

  1. First, be aware of your own reactions. Pay attention to your kneejerk responses — both agreement and disagreement! These are the places where you’ve already made your decision, and recognizing that can help you deepen your intellectual and social understanding of the circus of this particular election. Maybe, if you recognize the stories that get you excited and agitated, you’ll be able to see past those ideas and test them out. Debates are great wake-up calls. You may not change your mind, but you might get a more solid understanding of what’s going on, so when you post on Facebook or talk with friends who plan to vote differently, you can actually communicate your conviction, instead of simply vent.
  2. Track the facts and the way the candidates spin them. Recognizing how a leader reinforces his or her rhetoric with fact-based evidence gives you a sense of their integrity, intelligence and attention-to-detail. When you see how they spin the facts, you will get a sense of their goals and leadership style. Persuasive oratory is part of presidential political clout, and good oratory uses both facts and rhetoric. If you can put your agitation aside, you just might notice some useful leadership clues about these two candidates.
  3. Watch the dynamics between the two candidates, and the dynamics between each candidate and the moderator. Relationships, even contentious ones, and especially professional ones, say a lot during these public rituals. What qualities will each candidate bring into the debate, try to project, and use to thrust and parry their causes? As you watch, pay attention to their strategies to build or break down connections. Observing these leadership relationship strategies in a debate with a clear eye will help you assess these debaters as leaders.

    This election has been decidedly un-civil, especially on the Trump side. There’s apparently an adrenaline rush to his bravado and accusations. But his media-charisma and attack-dog mentality won’t be enough to make him a good president, and the entertainment value of his bombast breaks down diplomacy and discussion. On the other hand, Clinton’s careful rhetoric doesn’t always play to the crowd, and she sometimes seems like a classic politician, off-putting to people tired of “business as usual.”

    The debate will likely model this problem, and many others that have haunted the 2015-2016 election campaign. But you don’t have to get sucked into the stereotypes, and if you listen with your head, heart and common-sense, you may just get a glimpse into something more than the circus that has smoke-screened so much information in past months.

It’s up to you: do you want to use your “leader-radar” and get the information you need to make an informed decision? Or do you want to give in to the emotional, propagandized “conversation” that obscures the truths you need to ground your vote?

Good luck. And above all, don’t watch alone! (That would just be too scary, don’t you think?)




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