The Leading Edge: Iowa, Presidential Candidates and the CPI Index

The endorsement of Hillary Clinton and John McCain by the Des Moines Register should come as no surprise if you look at the candidates through the lens of Clarity, Preparation and Integrity. These are three key components to respect-ability. When perception of these qualities goes down, so too does our respect.

The endorsement of Hillary Clinton and John McCain by the Des Moines Register should come as no surprise if you look at the candidates through the lens of Clarity, Preparation and Integrity. These are three key components to respect-ability. When perception of these qualities goes down, so too does our respect.


Individuals who have clarity are neither confused nor confusing when it comes to who they are and what they want. They are very clear in the goals they have set for themselves and understand what they need to do in order to make those goals a reality. If you have ever had the chance to work for or under an individual who has that clarity, you would probably agree that they are self-assured, exude positive energy and make great leaders. On the other hand, if you’ve had the misfortune to work for an individual who is confused and/or confusing in terms of what they envision, they exasperate or at the very least frustrate you and as a result command little if no respect. Typically, that type of person stands for nothing and when you discovered it, you lost respect for them that you never got back. People who possess clarity trigger our admiration.

Individuals who properly prepare do not shoot from the hip. They think long and hard about what they want to accomplish and how they will get it done. They have a plan and they execute. By doing their due diligence on the front end, they are better prepared to leads others to a positive result. By being properly prepared, they understand that even if they get knocked off course they will be able to get back on track and pick up where they left off. People who are prepared have experience, but more importantly learn from it. Those that are not prepared have no idea what their course might be and as a result when they get knocked off, they simply cannot come back because there is no plan to climb back on to. Prepared individuals bring solutions to problems. Unprepared individuals seemingly make excuses, blame or “whine” without a constructive solution. Individuals who are prepared are self-assured, exude energy and are the people that most people want to be around. People who are prepared inspire confidence.

Individuals who have integrity are the type of individuals we all want to be around! These are the individuals who do what they say they are going to do. They are the leaders who stay the course no matter what the circumstances might be because they are committed to a vision that rests soundly or core values dedicated to serving and enriching the common good. We all have come across those who talk a good game but when the “rubber meets the road,” we find that their substance is weak or nonexistent. In contrast, high integrity individuals have the judgment to know the right thing to do, the character to stand up to those who don’t do it and the courage to stop those who won’t do it. In life, we all have opportunities and challenges. It is easy to stay the course when things are going well. It is when we hit a pothole in the road that throws us off course that really tests our mettle and our commitment to ourselves and to those around us. Most people want to know that a leader will be there when the chips are down. Integrity is everything! You can spend a lifetime building it and it only takes one situation where you did not live up to your commitment to tear it down. On the other hand, people with integrity are not perfect and do make honest mistakes. But when they do, they don’t lie or pass the buck. Rather they take full responsibility for them and then take corrective action to not repeat them (think J.F.K. and the Bay of Pigs). Reputation and integrity are the foundation of the good leadership. Those, who hold that dear, will not tolerate anyone who lacks integrity. People with integrity engender trust.

Now that we have defined clarity, preparation and integrity, how do our current presidential candidates stack up? What is their “CPI Index™“? On a scale of one to 10 measure each on these values — 1 being” negligible” with 10 being “outstanding” – how do they measure up?

If we look at prior elections and prior candidates, the ones who were elected were perceived to have a high CPI index. Those with a low index fell by the wayside. Bill Clinton was perceived as being high in clarity and preparation and his (personal vs. professional) integrity mainly came into question after he had one and half terms under his belt. Al Gore was perceived as being prepared and having integrity, but alas, he just didn’t come off as clear as George Bush in 2000. John Kerry was perceived as being somewhat prepared on issues, but lacked clarity and was perceived as having “flip flop” integrity issues. Howard Dean seemed clear and to have integrity, but in lacking self-awareness of how he could turn off people, he was unprepared. George Bush possibly prevailed in both 2000 and 2004 because he was perceived as being clear and in having integrity (especially with regard to doing what he said he was going to do). And if he was perceived as being unprepared, he was perceived as being advised by people with a lot of experience and expertise (a la Ronald Reagan another high in clarity, high in integrity president).

Part of the reason for the incredible enmity toward him now is for his perceived lack of integrity as more and more information comes forth regarding decisions and policies.


As we consider the current cast of candidates from both parties, it is difficult viewing them as possessing a sustained high CPI index. On any given day any one of the qualities can appear to be lacking.

That said, it should come as no surprise that the Des Moines Register has endorsed Hillary Clinton and John McCain. McCain’s CPI index is probably the most consistently high of all Republican candidates. However his insistence on focusing on what Americans need to do instead of what they want to do without having the requisite J.F.K. persona and idealistic youth population to challenge us to: “Ask not what our country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” may in the end do him in.

Clinton may be lacking in clarity and integrity in the eyes of voters, but her integrity appears to be more about the maneuvers to get elected, more than what she will do once in office given in respectable record as Senator. Compared to other Democratic candidates she is perceived as off the charts in preparation especially with her husband as confidante and advisor at her side. And detrimental as his flawed personal character may appear, it pales in comparison with George Bush’s perceived flawed performance.

One person who embodies these qualities and has a high CPI index is Clint Eastwood. His high level of clarity, preparation and integrity engender deep admiration, confidence and trust. All of this adds up to immense respect which leads to his having his independent projects financed by a tight fisted community that would not green light any other director that wanted to do similar movies.

Unfortunately for us, Clint Eastwood may have the qualities to make him a great leader and who knows maybe even President, but he also possesses the common sense to not want the job. Too bad, because America can certainly use a President that could “Go ahead and make our day!”

About the author

Mark Goulston, M.D. is the Co-Fonder of Heartfelt Leadership a global community whose Mission of Daring to Care it dedicated to identifying, celebrating, developing and supporting heartfelt leaders who are as committed to making a difference as they are to making a profit.