A Guide to watching the UK Presidential Debates tonight

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MY KITCHEN — Tonight when the three main party heads appear on TV for a ‘debate’, it will start a tradition in the UK. It’s a tradition that has been going on in Canada and the US for about 50 years.

At Able and How we train executives in leadership. A lot of that is how to talk to people. Not just the media, but real people. Ronald Reagan used to say that he wanted to “talk over the heads of the media, directly to the American people”. That’s what Clegg, Cameron and Brown will be trying to do today.

Here’s what you will be looking for, whether you know it or not:

COMPETENCE
This may seem obvious, but it’s really about whether or not the speaker seems to be someone you’d loan your bike to. Would they know how to run a dry cleaner? Isn’t that a silly standard to set? Yes, but we make those decisions every day, and today is no different. In fact, the numbers they cite don’t even have to be right, because we’re also looking for:

CONFIDENCE
Nobody wants to follow a football team whose manager says “we may not win this year, because our guys are not as good as the game requires…” You need a balance between silent swagger (Sven) and violent assertiveness (Sir Alex).

EMPATHY
This is not about feeling sorry for people. It’s just about a sense of connection with what real people feel. Tony Blair had it. Bill (‘I feel your pain.’) Clinton had it. George H W Bush didn’t — when he was in a supermarket looking at a bar-code scanner as if it was a Star Trek transporter, he lost all ability to relate.

So, why not watch without listening to the words and think about how they make you feel. Whether you are working in a Kwik Fit in Basildon, or changing tires on Jenson Button’s car, that’s what most people will end up doing anyway.

Good leaders know how to get across all of the things listed above.

But even if you don’t want to do that, the most important thing to do is: watch.

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One Response

  1. David Ferrabee
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    And if you’re bored you can try this: http://www.slapometer.com/
    The Twitter hashtag to follow, I think is #ukelection

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