Remember that incompetent boss you used to have? He was a good guy and all, but he just couldn't make decisions or prioritize. Perhaps worst of all, he tried to make everyone happy, resulting in almost everyone being angry or confused or both. And remember how long it took management to move him out -- and how aggravating that was?
Of course, at the time, you sort of understood why the Bigs had promoted the guy in the first place, and why they held out hope for so long. He'd been a superstar salesman. Best the company had seen in ages. But in the end, it turned out that all the things that made him great as an individual performer made him lousy as a people manager.
It happens all the time at work. A brilliant engineer promoted to run R&D. A gifted reporter elevated to editor. A cutting-edge scientist made head of the lab. First cheers. Then, after a bit, confusion about organizational direction, mixed signals about values, hurt feelings left and right and, eventually, chaos.
Look, in business, some people can really knock it out of the park in their current jobs. They just can't lead.
Smart companies get that reality. In fact, most have learned the hard way that actually being a great leader involves unique skills that even the most promising candidate for a leadership job simply may not possess.
But do the American people get that reality, too?
You have to wonder. Because there's an awful lot of noise out there right now about campaign styles. President Obama has a reputation built on his soaring oratory, while Mitt Romney, clearly no fan of crowd scenes, can't seem to get through a week without an awkward (or worse, foot-in-mouth) moment.
The president really knows how to run for office, the pundits note. Romney -- not so much.
As if it matters.
It doesn't, of course. Just as in business, in politics, being very good at one job (like delivering well-written speeches from a teleprompter) doesn't necessarily make you very good at the next (like leading the free world).
What voters need to do right now is stop focusing on stump skills, or lack thereof, and start fixating on which candidate will be the better president once the campaign is long over. They need to stop asking, "Who's more appealing on TV?" and start asking, "Who's got the right stuff to get America working again?"
Yes, in some part, every person's answer to that question will be driven by the issues -- from healthcare to taxes to energy policy. And in this election, the ideological divide is stark indeed, with Obama supporting government centralization that borders on European-type socialism and Romney in favor of decentralization, state and individual rights and free-market capitalism.