Popularity, Politics, and Principles

Well, whether you love him or dislike him, most everyone would probably agree that George W. Bush isn’t known for his eloquence in speaking. But in an interview with Oprah that aired last week, he was never, in my opinion, more eloquent.

Near the conclusion of their interview, Oprah played a clip of the former President on her show ten years ago when he was running for office. She then asked, “If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell that presidential hopeful?”

He said he’d tell his younger self what an honor it is to serve as President and how he will face some tough times, but what struck me was his emphasis on the importance of principles. “Have a set of principles,” he said. “Defend those principles no matter what it might cost you.”

He then said he hoped he would be remembered as someone who didn’t sacrifice his principles for the sake of popularity, adding:

“If you chase popularity, you’re chasing something and it’s just a fleeting moment, but principles last forever.”

Wow! That’s powerful and so true! You don’t have to be President of the United States to face the challenge of sacrificing your principles in the hope of gaining something, that in the moment, might seem worth the trade. It takes stamina to not sell out your principles in exchange for a promotion or popularity, both of which are short-lived and neither of which will attract producers or future leaders to your team.

After all, you cannot be an effective leader and chase popularity. It’s too hard to make decisions on behalf of the company if you’re worried about the popular vote. Bush is right; if you chase popularity or if you politick for positions, whatever you attain will just be a fleeting moment in your leadership tenure.

Like the President’s legacy, our legacy as leaders is determined after we leave. We won’t be around to dictate what is said about us once we’re gone. The people decide, and popularity doesn’t impact people. Living by principles and standards worth passing on from generation to generation impacts people, and that is something that will be remembered because it influences and inspires those serving around you.

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  • Bob Robinson says:

    Great article Linda… I enjoy reading your work.

    Adding to “keeping principles”, to which President Bush will be well remembers, two significant leadership attributes he possesses are character and integrity, both driving ethical behavior.

    A leader who maintains core values and principles, and acts with integrity and character, will:
    1. creates and maintains trust
    2. is able to see and face reality
    3. works in a way that brings results

    Values are the non-negotiable principles that define character in a leader. …

    Thanks for all you do!

  • crystal saffel says:

    Im not a fan of the W myself but I loved his interview on Oprah. In my opinion he showed true leadership by defending his decisions but also acknowledging some maybe should have been different. A true leader doesn’t make excuses but instead looks those in the eyes he or she leads and says, “you know what? I messed up.” I have huge respect for that. And for that I am reading his book. 🙂

  • Laurie says:

    Great article Misses Sass!
    I believe in strong principles, not for popularity but for who I stand for and more importantly what my business stands for. We are all human and make mistakes and it humbles us to admit them but it makes us stronger individuals in the long run. I love George W. and don’t feel we have his strength in office at this time. Just my thoughts!

  • Dena Q. says:

    Love this post!!! W is one of my favorites because of his principles. Standing up for your principles is a decision you make before you are in the heat of a moment. The parallels you draw with leadership are right on.

  • Lisa Griffin says:

    What a fantastic article Linda. I plan to share this with my team today, just like I share all your blogs. Thank you for all you do and for all the mentoring! It is very much noticed and appreciated.