Leadership and the US political landscape: An example of talented people acting badly

By: Curtis Sprouse

August 2017

As I read the numerous articles on the current US political landscape and watch the evening news from both the left and right perspective, I see more and more evidence of the importance of Social and Situational Acumen. Many of our leaders demonstrate a lack of proficiency in this area.

It concerns me when people label a government official as stupid because of differences in opinions. Many of our leaders have been educated in some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. They have had extraordinary and diverse experiences. They have attained political office by convincing voters that they can represent the people’s interest.

It is safe to assume that intellect is not the reason for the current discord and ineffectiveness in Washington DC. We can observe that many of our leaders have natural talent. Consider the Motivational theory, which is defined by energy, dominance, discipline and competing. When a person has one or more of these behaviors that exceeds 50%, they demonstrate a drive to achieve. It is obvious that many of our leaders possess an abundance of these genetic characteristics, yet the actions they take are not currently in the best interest of the people.

We know from studying behavior that one’s ability to develop relationships and navigate diverse situations is at the very foundation of great leadership. These concepts were studied by Dale Carnegie in the last century and represent the foundation of his teachings that have affected 10s of millions of people. These concepts were also the emphasis of current results on high performance teams and high performance leaders in a February 2016 Google publication, What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team.

Social Acumen is defined as the ability to connect to others and show genuine care and compassion. My firm measures behavior by examining of “Goodwill and Socials Skills.” Situational Acumen is the ability to navigate a broad spectrum of situations and contribute in a positive way regardless of the situational dynamics. We measure it as Compromise and Accommodation from a behavioral perspective.

Failure to balance these four learned behaviors results in ineffective leadership and suboptimal outcomes. It is obvious that many people in the political arena fail to connect to others. They have little interest in the experiences, areas of position and personal values that shape other’s views, actions and reactions.

When a person can balance these four behaviors with consistency regardless of the people or circumstances, they tend to produce exceptional results. They contribute to most if not all situations in a positive way. As I tell my children, there are only three ways to contribute to any situation. You are a positive influence, a negative influence, or no one knew you were there. Two of these options need to be avoided by building relationships and balance interactions to always contribute in a positive productive way.

So how do we as citizens fix the problem? We must work to teach our children these concepts. Our data and that of other researchers shows that when we connect and genuinely care about others, it is harder for us to do the wrong thing. When you balance Compromise and Accommodation you are more likely to consider a rational position supported by data.

What we are currently experiencing in the US is a group of very talented people (our leaders) who demonstrate talent (strong Motivational profiles) but have little connection (low Social Skills) and or a low level of care and compassion (low Goodwill) for their fellow American. What we are seeing is leaders who exhibit high degree of cynicism (low Compromise). They are strongly positioned at the onset of most if not every discussion. They also have low Accommodation—the inability to move in a new direction when the data and facts suggest they should.

Lets take matters into our own hands. Let’s as citizens provide the example for our children. Let’s help them to see what it means to connect with and care about others. Let’s help them understand the importance of a good questions. One that will help the present better explain what they mean and why.

When we understand other’s positions and why they hold them, we are better able to present and position our stances and views. This process seems obvious but I challenge you to find a recent story in the news regarding our political landscape that could serve as an example to our children of what I am suggesting. You be the example and perhaps we will raise a generation of people that are stronger, more accomplished leaders who use their extraordinary talents. Perhaps we will educate our own leaders so that they develop these skills.

Note: Scores, profiles, or assessments referenced in this article refer to characteristics defined in the EurekaConnect Behavioral Dynamics program

About the author: Curtis R. Sprouse is the President and CEO of EurekaConnect, LLC. Curtis has spent more than 25 years building companies and consulting for hundreds of the fortune 500 companies.

EurekaConnect, LLC uses proven technologies and data driven solutions that objectively and measurably improve organizational performance. For more information please