Style Or Substance?

I try hard not to overanalyze things, though sometimes I fail.  What can I say, I enjoy not being perfect. Life is much easier that way. So when an important or difficult decision presents itself, I try to look at it in a simplistic way and ask myself what’s most important in making the decision.
As an example, if you were to hire someone for a job, you would review their resume or application, look for the type of experience that fits the position you’re trying to fill and ask specific questions about their accomplishments. After that, you may ask for references or check with their previous employers to see if what they said they did matches up with what they actually accomplished. When that was done, you might even run a background check on them, check their Facebook page, see if they have a twitter account or check their Linkedin profile. In short, you would do your due diligence to make sure you were hiring the best candidate based on their experience, actual accomplishments and ethics.

Pretty simple, right? I think most of us would agree on those points.

So now lets throw a presidential election into the mix. This country must decide who they want leading their company for a specific period of time or elected term of office. While I understand the power of this position has limits based on a variety  of factors, it’s still significant in terms of power, perception, attitude and company morale. So I would think, simplistically speaking, we would, at the very least, adopt the same kind of hiring process that I mentioned earlier.

 

But here’s where things get fuzzy. We have a tendency to become distracted or misdirected by the way things are presented to us rather than by the truth of what’s presented. We have individual agendas, things that are in our own individual best interests rather than the well-being of the company. We become infatuated by style, wealth, promises, rhetoric and really good comedic lines at rallies and debates. We forget about the simple questions like, what have you accomplished or what real experience do you have for this position? Instead of looking into  the truth of what’s being said or promised, we just accept it as gospel because someone was smart enough to strike a nerve that resonates. If they say they can do it, even though they have no experience or track record on getting something like this done, that seems to be good enough.

We seem to elect and gravitate toward showmen these days, snake oil salesmen who will promise you truth in a bottle of vinegar. And we drink it down with a smile on our faces. Style without an ounce of substance to back up their claims. Make no mistake, both parties have these salesmen/saleswomen and we, as voters, are equal opportunity offenders of this hiring process.

So we’ll go through this ridiculously long and incredibly expensive process only to ignore those few qualified candidates who have real accomplishments on their resumes and have played the game with as much honesty and integrity as is possible. Unfortunately, celebrities or last names will eventually win out and once again we will be left with a house filled with lots of style but not an ounce of substance.

Makes you wonder how long it will take before the continued shortcomings in our hiring process will eventually force our company out of business.

Unknown

Style or substance? Which will you support?

44 thoughts on “Style Or Substance?

  1. Invisible Mikey

    In this case I would have to support a balance of both style and substance. Presidents do some governing, and that takes wisdom and experience (substance). But they also do a ton of public speaking and are involved in diplomacy and negotiations, which all benefit from charm and charisma (style). The most successful presidents in the past had plenty of both. The least successful ones tended to have too much of one or the other, not both.

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    1. George Post author

      Thanks, Mikey. You make a good point and I agree. My position is that many people will choose someone without understanding more than what they see superficially. That’s dangerous.

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      1. Invisible Mikey

        And I agree with you about that danger, even though I can’t blame voters entirely. Campaigns are so carefully hyped and managed and handled these days, it’s pretty difficult to get to know candidates deeply.

        I grew up in Iowa, and political pros are fond of denigrating the caucus there. But forcing candidates to deal with small groups, to sit and talk and eat with voters face-to-face makes it harder for them to lie or present false messages. As 19th Century as it is in style, it helps answer the important question “Who are you, really?”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. George Post author

        It’s unfortunate that there isn’t more of that but as you say, it’s a dangerous game to play because it may expose the light weights for what they are. One would think, with the absurd length of these campaigns and the opportunity people have to delve deeper into the history of a candidate’s successes and failures, the voting public would have a clearer understanding of the person. But of course, much of that is slanted by the media and other special interest groups so unless you’re prepared to do some homework on your own, you’re relying on the opinions of others to form your own.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Helen Devries

    I think that we need classes in practical civics in schools…not the ones which tell us how wonderful is our system but ones which tell us how our wonderful system works ‘on the ground’…whether it answers our reasonable expectation for everyone to be given a fair chance in life and how those entities which don’t give a damn about the chances of others are able to manipulate the system.
    I am old enough to remember when candidates for office still held public meetings…and had to acquit themselves well if the word was not to go round that perhaps his party programme was good…but the man himself (it was usually a man) was a wet week…no good to his constituents at all.
    No security guards in those days, no pre-selected audience to look good on the box…and plenty of heckling.
    Super post…thank you.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Helen. Unfortunately, those days are behind us and not to return. Now everything is well orchestrated, including paid crowds at rallies. Your suggestion on civics classes that deal in reality is a good one. If only we ran the country..:) thank you for your thoughts.

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  3. Almost Iowa

    I prefer my presidents to be showmen. That is their job. It is not the job of a president to make decisions – that is what staff is for. It is however the job of a president to set a tone and that is what they should be selling in the debates. The other major role of a president is to communicate with the American people in an honest and forthright way. Presidents who know this, do well. Love him or hate him, Reagan played this role perfectly. Obama did it well during his first term – but lost the guy who held his presidency together, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual, and the result was disastrous, both for his presidency and the nation.

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    1. George Post author

      Isn’t the job of any good President was to hire a good staff around him to provide information in order to help him make decisions? Ian that what the leader of any country or company does? At the end of the day, it’s his or her decision based in the information he has in front of him. If all we want is a showman, we might as well visit a comedy club for talent or pull someone who’s currently working as a talk show host. I disagree about someone in that position strictly being a showman. There has to be some substance to whomever holds that position.aside from his or her ability to entertain and communicate.

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      1. Almost Iowa

        “Ian that what the leader of any country or company does? At the end of the day, it’s his or her decision based in the information he has in front of him.”

        There are two roles here: that of leader and that of decision maker. The value of leadership is measured in inverse proportion to the number of decisions made. When one establishes a tone, goals and a strategy, the decisions are best left to those who know the subject well.

        “There has to be some substance to whomever holds that position.aside from his or her ability to entertain and communicate.”

        On that we can agree – but the best laid plans of mice and men are worthless unless they are communicated effectively to the people who carry them out and are affected by them.

        When I talk about a showman as president, I am not talking about a circus barker rather I am talking about an FDR with his Fireside Chats and a Churchill with his stirring speeches – both of them did almost everything for political effect. They understood how politics and events resonated with people and played it for everything it was worth.

        That is being a showman.

        On the other hand, look at presidents known for their decision making process and managerial skills – Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. George Post author

        Ok, it seems we’re saying the same thing but differing on the word showman. I would use the word communicator and are that it’s critical for a President to effectively inspire, convey emotion and relate reasoning in a way that people will respond to positively. But I don’t think there would have been a president elected in the last fifty years that didn’t possess those skills.
        I also agree with your definition on the value of leadership and how it relates to decision making, however this position requires that a significant number of critical decisions are made on a daily basis. Also, we all know that every president doesn’t necessarily listen to every suggestion made by his staff. Sometimes that works in his favor and sometimes it doesn’t.
        I think we’re saying the same thing using different terminology.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ann Coleman

    All I know is, every time we have a presidential election, I look at the candidates on the ballot and think, “Really? Out of all the competent people in this country, this is the best we can come up with?” Great post, as usual!

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  5. candidkay

    In journalism school, we learned about how television changed the face of elections as we know them. Nixon looked shadowed and haggard, which hurt him. Etc. It seems now that we look less at ability to govern (which does not always come with a “sexy” soundbyte or style) and more at flash and dash.

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    1. George Post author

      I agree completely. I’m old enough, though I was a kid, to remember those debates and how Kennedy’s charisma, especially with women, increased his his popularity. But at least Kennedy had some experience and substance to work with. Too many people today base their decision on what they see and hear, not what they know. That’s unfortunate.

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  6. Carol Ferenc

    Definitely, I vote for substance although the importance of style can’t be ignored. Sometimes the choices on the ballot scare me. Well done, George.

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    1. George Post author

      Thanks, Carol. Like you I understand the importance of style or the ability to communicate effectively, but there has to be something behind those words. I think too many people are infatuated with a personality without regard for their experience. That’s scary.

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  7. Pingback: Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 279 | A Frank Angle

  8. List of X

    As a voter, I would require both style and substance – with 200 million or so eligible to be president, it’s not too much to ask for both. Also, i’d like a full background check and a urine test. And definitely some experience: the presidency is supposedly the most important job in the country, so I don’t understand why we let complete amateurs to even apply.

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  9. Julia Lund

    Being a Brit, I know less than a little about the US democratic process, however, I read a timely novel about the process recently that somehow didn’t feel as though it was completely fictional, particularly after seeing some footage of recent debates on BBC news updates … The Lafayette Campaign by Andrew Updegrove.

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  10. sportsattitudes

    It really amuses me when Donald Trump gets annoyed when pressed for details on policy proposals or Ben Carson becomes perturbed about questions regarding his credentials. The people allegedly leading the GOP polls right now are praying they can keep substance from becoming part of vetting a Presidential candidate. Sad.

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    1. George Post author

      It really is sad. Even more sad that people are buying into it or not taking the lack of substance into consideration. I understand people what people are trying to say, I just think anger has overtaken reason. That’s dangerous.

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  11. Ilona Elliott

    Great post George. You hit a nerve with it. It’s frustrating how much showmanship and how little substance and integrity politicians seem to have. The money that is spent on campaigns is obscene and the advertising is slick but generally completely baseless and misleading. It seems that the candidates I gravitate towards are usually disregarded by the media and discarded by the parties. I guess I go for substance and not show. It’s not helping our country any to have career politicians who are suspect of the very government they are supposed to running. It would be like a company full of people who don’t believe in the mission and have a narrow agenda of their own to promote. I don’t think it would make for a successful business and it doesn’t make for successful governing either. Thanks for posting this thoughtful piece!

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I completely agree with what you’ve said. The whole process is obscene in so many ways. I don’t understand our infatuation with the “entertainers.” Unfortunately, the political scene is littered with these type of people. It’s very sad.

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