10 Things America Wants in Its President in 2016

Why we should look for a leader who doesn't let the ends justify the means.

ByColumn By Matthew Dowd <a Href="https://twitter.com/matthewjdowd">@matthewjdowd</a>
March 11, 2015, 6:03 PM
Getty Images

&#151; -- Another week in politics, and another view into the dysfunction and lack of real leadership that has become all too common in our country today. Makes a boy who grew up in the Midwest (granted it was Detroit) saying the pledge of allegiance each day at school wonder what has happened to the leaders we so desperately search for.

As I watched the unfolding of the Hillary Clinton email controversy where I felt like I was in a time machine back to the 1990s (no bridge to the 21st century, but rather a bunker to the 20th century), and GOP senators sending a wacky and unprecedented letter to Iran undermining the president's negotiating position, it got me thinking of the list of attributes or qualities we are looking for in our leaders and in our next president. And right now I have seen no candidate or potential candidate out there who has captured even half of them.

Here are my 10:

1. We hunger for a leader who is authentic. What does this mean? It means a leader whose thoughts, words and actions are in alignment with a set of genuine values. A leader who knows they don't have to be perfect, but desires perfection as a goal. A leader who puts country over party no matter the consequences, and who is genuine in their approach to all sides in reaching solutions.

2. It is time we had a leader again who retains the values of our incredible past of this country, but is forward-looking in what we want to accomplish. A leader who understands the Constitutional principles upon which this great nation was founded, but is setting an innovative vision ahead that moves us all to a better place. You can't find the promised land if you are looking backwards at some long-gone era and rereading the lines of a dusty document.

3. We want a leader who is not afraid to show their heart, to convey deep feelings on heartfelt concerns and to show a level of vulnerability. But we also want a leader who can hold strong and calm in a storm of data and information and desires. We want a leader who is intellectually curious, who looks for new solutions to problems and is not trapped in the mantra of the old ways. But also has a big enough heart to embrace Americans across segments and divisions.

4. We want a leader who doesn't just follow the letter of the law or the details of rules or what someone else did, but rather someone who wants to set a higher standard of behavior for themselves and our government as a whole. This could involve transparency, or openness or any type of communication. Let's have a leader setting a much higher goal for us as a government and a country than just the norm or status quo.

5. We hunger for a leader who understands they arrive with their own biases and prejudices and history and party, but who realizes the country is being torn apart by divisiveness. The incredible polarization that exists today needs to be acknowledged, and then dealt with. The biggest impediment to achieving a better life for all Americans is the political bickering and finger-pointing in D.C. It is time we have leaders that don't just talk the talk of unity, but walk the walk.

6. Americans are tired of the politics of the ends justifying the means. It is the means that tell us the kind of woman or man you are, not the ends you are promising. Show us how you live your life, how you govern, how you communicate with opponents, how you treat your enemies, and this will tell us who you are. If you fix the means of governing and of politics, then the ends will work themselves out and be good. Concentrate on making sure the means are filled with integrity and compassion, and the ends will be just fine.

7. We want our leaders in foreign policy to be a combination of realist and idealist. We want to convey our ideals across this globe of human rights, democracy, security, tolerance, and acceptance, and have policies annunciated that are rooted in these deeply held ideals. But we want our leaders to also be realistic in the partners and allies and actions that we might have to take to enforce these ideals around the globe. Let us combine a practical and realistic approach with an idealistic mission as we operate around the globe.

8. We need leaders who can delegate and practice accountability in management and leadership. In a complex world all decisions can't be forced through a hierarchical model. It is important that creativity and responsiveness is encouraged through delegation. But delegation without accountability is chaos. And this accountability needs to not only be conducted outward from the leader's office, but to come back inward from folks outside the decision makers circle. Accountability is a two-way street.

9. It is time we had a leader who just didn't talk about helping the middle class, but actually put sets of policies together that did just that. And a major impediment to do this is a leader's proximity to Wall Street power. We need a leader who is closer to Main Street than Wall Street and we can tell this by who finances campaigns and advises the candidate. If in your past you were cozy with Wall Street, then you need to overcome this liability in a real way. We need a leader who draws a firm line between their offices and Wall Street influence.

10. We want a leader who approaches the government in an entrepreneurial way. The only way we can confront 21st century concerns is with models designed with a modern mindset. Big government solutions based in old models don't work. We need smaller and more community-based models of service delivery. We need to adapt the movement of social innovation spreading throughout this country, and use it to recast government. Leaders should be open to totally new ways to solving problems, only some of which will be government led. And those that are in government should have innovation at the core.

That is my list of 10 things I am looking for in the leaders ahead, and I will be watching the presidential campaign to see who aligns best with that list. That is the leader I would bet on.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events