The video of Romney’s speech in May during a fundraising dinner headlines the news all over the world. Most comments are made about his statement that he doesn’t care about 47 % of the people. Two lessons in leadership can be made:
1) Behavioral consistency is important in leadership. People don’t like leaders that say A to a certain audience and B to another audience. Two-faced people are less trusted. And because we live in a fishbowl society, it has become impossible to manage different messages for different audiences in a consistent way. This is one of the drivers for authenticity: if you stick to the beliefs that you truely believe in, it is easier to stay consistent.
2) Trust is the power of leadership that wants to change people’s behaviors and attitudes. To gain that trust, leaders have to be prototypical for the group they want to change. They have to say “I’m one of you”. You can manage people with authority or hard power, but you can’t turn their hearts and minds that way. By disregarding 47 % of America’s voters, Romney gives the impression that he doesn’t want to gain their trust to lead them into a better future.
Bart De Wever, one of the candidates for becoming mayor of Antwerp created a similar discussion in the Belgian press. As a reaction to muslim protests last weekend, he said that “the city of Antwerp is only for those who do efforts to belong to the city”. He too has to answer the question of the people: “How can we trust you if you turn away from us?”