For those of you who follow my posts, you know that I am a thought leader on professionalism in the workplace. I even wrote a book about it.
This week, I am using that thought leadership lens to look at the first U.S. presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. After all, the position of President of the United States is the highest and most professional role that any American can hold.
I have shared some of the qualities that the President must possess to represent our country here and abroad, and I have provided a score in each of these categories. You may agree or disagree with my thoughts, and that’s okay.
Leadership. Hillary Clinton was the first to extend her hand to Donald Trump for an historical handshake as they both entered the stage. Clinton then walked to NBC-TV news anchor Lester Holt, moderator, and extended her hand. A leader takes the initiative. She set the tone. Score 1 for Hillary.
Clarity. For each question that was asked of Hillary Clinton, she answered the question clearly, offering factual information. The majority of Donald Trump’s responses were off topic, vague, or not connected with the question in any way. Quite frankly, he side-stepped most questions. Score 1 for Hillary.
Respect. When I think of the leader of the free world, I think of someone who is diplomatic, thoughtful, calm, and clear. Donald Trump showed disrespect for Hillary Clinton by interrupting (or manterrupting) her 51 times during the 90-minute debate, according to Vox. Debates are carefully structured, allowing each candidate two minutes to answer the same question provided by the moderator, then followed up with a more open banter. Despite persistent interrupting by Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton remained calm and positive. She didn’t roll her eyes or huff and puff or make faces. She remained consistently calm. Trump, on the other hand, made faces throughout the debate. I shuddered to think how such behavior on his part would be interpreted by another world leader. Score 1 for Hillary.
Preparation. Sorry, Trump supporters. Donald Trump flunked this test big time. As a communication expert, I teach people how to deliver powerful presentations. The first step in any solid performance is preparation. Answering his first question, Trump revealed his lack of preparation. His rhetoric and ramblings were anything but presidential. Despite what Trump has suggested, Clinton not only looked presidential, she responded as a President would. Why? Because she had prepared for the debate. She has the experience. Some political pundits felt Clinton was over-prepared or too scripted. I don’t share their perspective. She was speaking from her extensive knowledge base. Score 1 for Hillary.
Insight. A professional transcends hyperbole and sound bytes to offer deeper understanding, insights, ideas, and solutions. Trump didn’t back up his comments with any solid solutions. Clinton added additional thoughts, insights, and references to specific plans. Score 1 for Hillary.
Trust. Trust and trustworthiness has been a huge issue in this presidential campaign. After seeing each candidate perform at this first debate, I had to ask myself the most important question of all: “Who do I trust the most to lead our country as President?” Score 1 for Hillary.
There you have it. This is my opinion of who I believe presented a more professional image for our country, based on what I saw, heard and felt during this first debate. Of the two candidates, Hillary Clinton was more professional, better prepared, more thoughtful in her responses, and frankly, more presidential. Donald Trump fell short in all categories. He was ill prepared, non-substantive, vague, and disrespectful. In this first debate, substance trumped shallowness. Let’s see what happens in the second and third debates.