Our Next President: The Magnificent Seven Values

ByCOLUMN By Matthew Dowd
November 11, 2013, 5:31 PM

Nov. 12, 2013 -- The political discussion is fast moving towards the 2016 presidential race and who we might as a country desire as the next president and who can lead us into a new decade.

Simultaneously, numerous candidates on both sides of the aisle are beginning to emerge as they test the waters with the public and the media (Gov. Chris Christie's win in New Jersey is the latest manifestation of this), as well as a precipitous drop of President Obama's approval rating over the last year, where it now approaches President Bush's post-Katrina levels. This combination is causing a concerted look at the next big race.

Let's pause though a moment and stop analyzing each individual candidate and grapple with what values the country might be eyeing in our next leader. Not what policies specifically, or personal attributes, but the values that might connect with the public for a candidate in the campaign ahead. More importantly, after many voters had great hope in the last two presidents and ended up disappointed and a bit disillusioned, it is a good time to reflect on the values we might be looking for.

Here is my list of seven that I think the next president, or really any leader, needs to embody at this time:

1. Authenticity. Many have talked about this before, and, from my vantage point, is really the table stakes for every other value needed in a leader. Without a sense of authenticity, and genuineness in word and action, all the rest of the values will just come across as marketing or a sales job. Authenticity is conveyed in two ways: the leader knows deep down who they are and shows this on a day-to-day basis, and we as voters trust that our connection with the leader is clear and real and not the product of some communications strategy.

2. Strength. We definitely need this value in our president. But it shouldn't be the false bravado of someone who decides without listening, goes to war without considering all the consequences, or fights with the opposition because they think they have all the answers. It needs to be a strength born from faith and a belief that good conquers evil, and that kindness and consensus is more powerful than going alone. A strength that understands that weakness isn't in admitting a mistake and learning and growing, but that in that admission is where real strength can be found.

3. Integrity. The value that shows up as telling the truth, is conveyed in a sense of transparency and openness, and a willingness to be open and honest about decisions and management. This comes from the belief that the American public and the media can be trusted with the truth, and can be involved in the process. The enemy of good government or good living isn't in the telling of what is going on, it is in the hiding of secrets and real motives. Spinning a story or a narrative and shading the truth, even though advocated by many so-called communication experts, isn't a successful path to governing or leading.

4. Humility. Our current pope has shown clearly that walking the walk of humbleness and modesty is one of the best forms of leadership one can employ. I understand it takes a healthy ego to run for president, but we need to get past the arrogance of people who think they are smarter than everyone in the room or who think they are a gift to us as a country. While we want to look up to the president and see him or her as better than ourselves, we certainly don't want our leader to believe that about him or herself. Today, we need less Hail to the Chief, and more Amazing Grace, where being a fellow sinner is seen as a value, and not as a liability.

5. Relationships. Our next president must see there is more long-term value in building sustainable relationships across the aisle and across the country than in winning some short-term victory by pushing and threatening and relying on mere partisanship. This country is in dire need of a president who puts a premium on rebuilding the American community. And it should start with how he relates to the opposing political party. And these relationships should not be held together by the fleeting nature of transactions, but by a sincere desire to create a lasting bond. And in this we will get a president who is leader of the country more than leader of his party.

6. Delegation and Accountability. Our next president should be able to exercise creative leadership and management through the ability to delegate tasks in a complicated and global world, and allow people the creative space to try new ways and sometimes to make mistakes as they grapple with difficult problems. We have had two presidents in a row who have done this well, but have often left out the second part of this management and that is to hold people accountable. We can trust people to do the work, but as President Reagan said we must also verify they are getting it done efficiently and effectively. Without accountability coupled with delegation, we end up not having leadership but a breakdown in the system of governing.

7. Vision. It is important we have a president with a vision of where the promised land is and how we might get there. They don't need all the answers, but in this 21st century it is going to take an entirely new way to move forward that is not based in the old tactics, institutions and strategies all of us have grown up with. It is going to take a vision of an entirely new way to organize government and problem solving that is way beyond the scope of the way we are organized today. It is going have to be a vision where a leader lets go of the Republican and Democratic plans of the past, and moves us into the future in a totally different way. As I watched the last two presidents say they wanted change and then devolve into partisan strategies of yesteryear, I am reminded of the saying that the "definition of insanity is doing the same over and over and expecting different results."

These are my seven values I am looking to see how the candidates in 2016 line up with, as well as how I live them out each day in the leadership I exercise in the small circles of my life. What values are you looking for in a president or a partner or most importantly for your own good self?

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Follow him @matthewjdowd.

Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.

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