Politicians, Perceptions and Leadership

It appears that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is jumping back on the grid today. Wonder if he is on Twitter? And maybe we’ll find out whether he sojourned for the past few days hiking in the woods or wandering through the Atlanta airport. Hey, it can happen. I was like the Flying Dutchman in the airport from hell a few weeks ago. But something tells me there is more to the Sanford story — and whether it is a mountain or a molehill of an issue remains to be seen.

But here’s reality. I now have a perception of Sanford that ain’t good — and won’t change anytime soon, if at all. Sanford may be the nation’s best governor (not a high bar to jump over) — but I can’t imagine that based on this episode. And he certainly doesn’t strike me as a leader. I prefer that my leaders stay on the grid, or at least let spouses, staff members and others know where they can be reached. It seems to me that is a responsibility that goes with elected office. What if — “Sorry I wasn’t around for the hurricane that leveled South Carolina.” Duh.

And perceptions matter when it comes to politicians and leadership. Here’s a for instance.

Voters in Akron yesterday rejected a bid to recall Mayor Don Plusquellic. About 20 percent of eligible voters — most like me with no clue about any real issues involved, if any were actually involved — swatted down the recall effort like a fly hovering in Obama’s office, with Plusquellic getting about 75 percent of the vote.

Notes: I worked with Plusquellic about 30 years ago when we toiled together in the corporate gulag at Goodrich. He was an office planner, or some such thing. And I live now in a community — Copley Township — just west of Akron. So I can’t vote in Akron elections and rarely, if ever, get into the city these days.

Still, my perception is that Plusquellic has been a strong and effective leader since he became head of the city government in the 1980s. And if this wasn’t a referendum on his leadership — or the perception of his leadership — then what was this recall all about? No hint of criminal activity or malfeasence. So Akron spends about $170,000 to affirm the results of the general election held a year or so ago. Woot.

Now — if Mark Sanford were the mayor of Akron things might have turned out differently yesterday.

Perceptions matter — especially when the perceptions are anchored by some truth and reality.

UPDATE: Just as I sent this post out into the blogosphere, I received the following alert from the Wall Stree Journal. Bet Gov. Sanford’s spokesperson feels like an asshat. I digress.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was in Buenos Aires during his five-day absence, not hiking along the Appalachian Trail, he said in an interview with a South Carolina newspaper. In the interview with the State newspaper, Sanford said he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail. “But I said ‘no’ I wanted to do something exotic,” Sanford said. “… It’s a great city.” He said he traveled alone and drove along the Argentina coast, but declined to provide other details.


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