Genius Panel: How Do We Get the Best and Brightest to Lead?

blue 01This week’s question: Does our political system always/usually/sometimes/never produce the very best, brightest, most talented leaders to run our government institutions? Why or why not, and what is the solution?

W. Val Oveson, former Utah state auditor, lieutenant and National Taxpayer Advocate. I think our political system usually attracts the best and brightest to public service. There are exceptions to the rule in all groups who disappoint us and fail to live up to the standards set by the group. In all areas of our society we need to work harder to hold our leaders accountable for their behavior and conduct, be it business, sports, education, or politics. We the citizens need to hold our political leaders to a higher standard of conduct and performance. If we are disappointed with the quality of public servants, we need to look in the mirror.

Boyd Matheson, Sutherland Institute President and former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee. If we do not find ourselves as Americans, we will never find leaders who can take us anywhere worth going.  Producing leaders who truly lead has less to do with our political system and more to do with what is happening in our homes, neighborhoods, culture and communities.

In an election year where bombast and bravado battle deception and political power – it is easy to question where the best, brightest and most talented of our nation have gone.  Comparing the writings of Franklin, Madison, and Jefferson to the tweets of Donald Trump or the emails of Hillary Clinton is as stunning as it is depressing.  It does seem that the current system is producing more politicians who see office as a way to power and prominence than leaders who see office as a season of service to the country.

Campaigning and governing are very different skill-sets and a media-driven election system draws more big personalities than it does policy experts.  The politics of personal destruction and media “gotcha” games combined with an often distracted or disinterested electorate may be keeping some leaders on the sideline.

The solution, however, is found in voters engaging in the process, having higher expectations and demanding more accountability.  It also requires Americans to simply find ourselves.  Rather than longingly talking about great leaders from the past – we need to start acting like them.  Our most effective civic and governmental leaders will arise from among citizens who are part of a free market economy and strong civil society.

Mark Bouchard, senior managing director, Southwest Region, CBRE, Inc. I think the answer is sometimes.

  • We tend to make decisions based on what is most popular – Leaders will always have difficulty operating in that environment.
  • We tend to believe the solution to challenges are policy/law making – Leaders know otherwise. Writing policy does not change outcomes, people change outcomes.
  • Leaders cannot afford to do what is “popular” but what is right. 

To quote an excerpt from Lincoln on Leadership, Executive Strategies for Tough Times: “Managers make the right choices, Leaders do the right thing.”

The solution will take a lot more than 200 words !!

Peter Corroon, current state Democratic Party chair, and former Salt Lake County mayor. Our political system does not always produce the best, brightest leaders to run our government because not everyone in our country has an equal opportunity to go into politics—allowing the most talented leaders to emerge. So many Americans grow up without any exposure to politics or any understanding how the system works.

How does somebody from a rural town or urban ghetto whose citizens have been feeling disenfranchised for decades come to believe they can run for office? How does someone without reliable access to a computer learn how to run for office? It doesn’t matter how smart and talented you are, if you are 16 and having to support yourself with a night job after school, you don’t have time to volunteer on campaigns and learn how to get involved.  It’s not even on their radar.  When there’s equality in opportunity, then the best leaders will emerge. For now, too many of our brightest are left consumed with keeping food on the table and paying their kids’ medical bills.

Nolan Karras, former Utah House speaker and gubernatorial candidate. Definitely not in the presidential race, particularly in 2016!!! 

It is easy to be discouraged by the current presidential race, but after reflection, it appears to me that we have many capable political figures in our state.

But we are blessed with many excellent State Legislators, Mayors, men and women on City Councils and School Board members throughout the state which makes the state and local governments run much better than perhaps we deserve…public service is alive and well in Utah, and I suspect across the country.

It may be those running for less visible offices do not face the same scrutiny particularly about their personal life.  Or perhaps local and state politics is more civil and not so personally destructive. State and local races do not go negative as federal races seem prone to be.

Utah has been blessed with some great governors from both parties…which is proof enough that we do get some of the best and brightest to run for office.

From my viewpoint, there were some strong and reasonable Republican candidates offering themselves for service as president of the U.S., but the public was and is in an ugly mood…fueled by opposition to globalism and slow grow in the U.S. and as it happened the most unqualified candidate found the pulse of the primary voters.  

The ugly partisan atmosphere fueled by 24-hour media and no personal issue is sacred or left private means the majority of those who run for president must have an excess of ambition or personality to run.

Isn’t it interesting when the presidential candidates got to pick their V.P., they selected thoughtful qualified men from the current crop of politicians both of whom would be better candidates than the two who selected them!

The selection process for V.P. has produced some duds but some great ones like Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and even George H.W. Bush have emerged. 

Public opinion can be wrong, and in the short run they can make bad choices, but there is much evidence in Utah that our system works and qualified people run for office.