Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Help Wanted: American President
Qualifications: Must be playing with a full deck

With the media's teeth firmly embedded in the necks of the three Presidential candidates, it's become increasing unclear what we can truly believe or not believe about them. But one thing is clear. The ambivalence that voters feel toward Obama, Clinton and McCain tells us more about ourselves than about them.

The reason for that ambivalence is that there is something that each possesses that appeals to us, but there are other qualities about each of them that cause us to pause and be wary.

In order to relax our guards, sign on the dotted line, and put our faith in a Presidential candidate, he or she will need to engender in us: Trust, Confidence and Respect.

So here's the rub. Obama has inspired (unless the new spate of allegations ruins it) trust and respect, but not confidence (given his lack of experience); McCain has also inspired trust and respect, but not confidence (given his lack of broad based experience and, sorry to admit the obvious, his age); Clinton has instilled confidence (due to her and Bill's combined experience, but sorry Hillary, you ain't very inspiring), but not trust or respect.

Until a candidate spontaneously evokes all of these three qualities, he or she will continue to trigger dissonance in us. Dissonance occurs when what we see or hear doesn't match what we feel, a.k.a. What are you going to do for me?/What are you going to do to me?

These elements are equally important in a CEO, especially of a public company, where all eyes are upon them.

If a CEO doesn't instill all of these, how can they do so?

I developed the PEP CEO Challenge to solve such a dilemma. But it is not for the "faint of heart" or a CEO who in the words of Jack Nicholson, from "A Few Good Men," "Can't handle the truth."

To use it as a CEO, ask your people, directors, stockholders, customers/clients, vendors to anonymously rate how much Passion, Enthusiasm and Pride they feel about your services, products, company and YOU on a scale of 1 to 10. Then ask them to suggest what you and your company need to do to increase their rating if it is anything less than 10-10-10.

(c) 2008 Mark Goulston