Mitt Romney: S#*! authentic people say

March 9, 2012

If one word sums up the analysis that has followed Super Tuesday, it’s got to be “Huh?”

Or taken out of shorthand: “Why is it that Mitt Romney — a candidate with mountains of credentials, a boatload of cash and six years of planning — loses where he should win and only squeaks by where he should clobber, all while Rick Santorum, a long shot if there ever was one, goes around capturing hearts and votes?”

“Huh?” indeed.

Not that there aren’t plenty of answers to this question. Quite the opposite. Everyone in the pundit-sphere, it appears, agrees in one form or another that Romney’s problem is about connecting with people.

He just doesn’t seem, as the nattering goes, very authentic.

And the nattering is onto something. True, authenticity alone doesn’t make you a leader, but you sure can’t be a leader for very long without it. The reason’s simple. Authenticity makes people like you, trust you — and follow you.

Surely Mitt Romney, who’s been running organizations for decades, knows that in his bones. And in fact, people who know him well often speak of how Romney has always been a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy. Smart, candid, self-deprecating and, well, just sort of hilariously square.

But where is that guy now? Probably running scared. Scared of turning off any given constituency that might put him over the finish line.

What an irony — and what a mistake. When it comes to leadership, guarded behavior may minimize the ire of your enemies, but it doesn’t energize anyone either.

That’s why, like every leader, Romney needs to let go of the fear of offending people and embrace his authentic side. Mitt needs to let Mitt be Mitt. And so, in a nod to the social-media phenomenon, albeit with a slightly different name, we offer a short list of “Stuff Authentic People Say.”

First, to quote the great philosopher Popeye, you often hear authentic people give you some version of, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.” You know what we mean. Authentic people are deeply comfortable with themselves; they acknowledge without phoniness where they’ve come from and who they’ve become, both the good and not-so-good, through life’s accidents and their own hard work and ambition. Consider, for example, none less than Oprah, who rose to prominence not by hiding her painful past but by sharing it. And then, once famous, continuing to lay her humanity bare on a daily basis.

Second, authentic people say “I love” a lot, as in “I love Vegas!” and “I love March Madness!” You name it, they’re emoting about it. By the same token, authentic people also tend to throw around “I hate” quite a bit, as in, “I can’t stand people who don’t talk at meetings,” and “I despise Muzak.” Who knows why they’re so passionate? Maybe being candid about your roots and identity gives you self-confidence — you’re not hiding anything — and that self-confidence allows you to be exuberant about your beliefs, values and opinions. But that’s just a theory. All we know is what we’ve observed forever. And that is, when it comes to love and hate, authentic people go big.

Third and finally, authentic people aren’t afraid to say, “I’ve screwed up, and I’ve been down and it was awful.” In fact, very authentic people actually seem to relish describing mistakes in all their gritty detail. Take Ted Turner. Talking about the AOL-Time Warner deal, he once said, “It had to be one of the biggest business mistakes ever made. We went into it half-cocked and unprepared. And a lot of people were wiped out because of it, including me.”

Now, it’s important to note that in the next breath, Turner started talking about how he regained his stature and fortune. The grind and the sweat of coming back — they’re also part of the authentic person’s narrative. But they wouldn’t be half the fun if they didn’t start with an authentic person’s favorite place…the proverbial gutter.

Surely our authenticity checklist could go on. Everyone who’s worked with an authentic leader could probably add a few bullet points. But these three strike us as foundational: I know my reality, I know my values and I know I’m a big, wonderful, imperfect mess like everyone else.

Without doubt, Romney is not the first leader — particularly in politics — to have sublimated his true self along the way. But in this life, it’s never too late to reclaim your authenticity.

Your followers are waiting.

Jack Welch was the CEO of General Electric for 21 years and is the founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University. Suzy Welch is an author, speaker and the former Editor of the Harvard Business Review.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at his “Super Tuesday” primary election-night rally in Boston, March 6, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi



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Thank you for the lucid, straightforward explanation of why so many good people cannot easily reach national government. They – or, probably more importantly, the people whom they trust to be their “handlers” – think candidates have to be “attractive” to the “right” groups of demographic constituencies. What a mistake.

As part of a “town hall” crowd of people, I had the great pleasure to meet Bob & Elizabeth Dole in 2000. At that time, she was being considered as a potential Vice Presidential candidate for Bush II; he had already served 27 years in the Senate when he left in 1996 to run unsuccessfully against Bill Clinton.

What struck me most about the brief chats that I had with each of them was the authenticity – the “real deal” feeling. Most of all, though, I found this surprising from Bob. Libby never really changed: she was, for better or worse, always herself – in every interview, in every encounter. But, after the chats, it seemed to me that, had “this Bob Dole” run for President – not the stuffy, humorless, senior statesman put to the American people but the warm, funny, self-deprecating, very sincere Bob Dole whom I met that day – things might have been very different…

Are you reading this, Mitt?

Posted by JeffsComment | Report as abusive

Romney’s entrance into politics was a huge mistake to begin with. Because of his background, his personality and the real huge Super Pack money propping that is him, he has alienated himself form today’s people realities.
Simply put, he is perceived as a more intelligent or less stupid George W. Bush.

Posted by GMavros | Report as abusive

Is it too late for Romney to reclaim his authenticity? A more fitting question would be does Romney have the courage to admit that he caused taxes and fees to rise while he was governor of MA? And does he have the courage to admit that he was a proponent of mandatory health care in MA as a surrogate for a national mandate health care model before he was against it? At least he thought so up until July of 2009. Lastly, it may boost his authenticity by at least acknowledging that without federal taxpayer rescue the 2002 Olympics may not have been possible.

One would only need look @ Mitt Romney’s “authentic” record while in the MA governor’s office (2003 – 2007) as testimony to his success as a fiscal conservative, problem solver and designer of mandated health care. He created a budget surplus in the second year of his term by slashing support to cities and towns for education, special education, fire, and police by $1.6B. He increased fees for licenses and gas by $360M. During the third year of his term cities and towns hiked taxes in large part to pay for the cuts. During the third and fourth years of his term my own personal property taxes increased a total of 25%. Tuition at state colleges increased 63% over the subsequent 4 years. Individuals were shouldering the budget cuts through increased local taxes and fees. Can this be the record of a fiscal conservative or an elaborate shell game deceiving individuals into thinking that he cut spending without increasing taxes and fees? By the time the voters realized what he had done he was off to run his first election for President.

Mandated national health care reform, which is based on a model that he helped develop in MA, was endorsed by Romney again in July 2009 according to USA Today. Flip flop to 2012, Romney opposes Obama’s national plan, saying “there’s a better way”. The 2002 Olympics, were heavily subsidized by the Federal Government, ($382 M plus $1.1 B for infrastructure and roads). Mitt takes credit for rescuing the Olympics. Does some of the credit belong to the American taxpayer? Would a fiscal conservative take federal money to subsidize a private project? No. Or, would a fiscal conservative have a hand in mandating health care reform? Certainly not.

My 16 year old daughter describes it as, “manipulative hypocrisy”. She might not be far off. In “Winning” you speak about leaders as possessing authenticity, “Their realness coming across in the way they communicate and reach people on an emotional level.” Last week Romney was in Boston to renew his license. He, his entourage and a couple of state troopers escorted him to a private office to have his picture taken. Now, wouldn’t that have been a great opportunity to connect and wait in line with the ordinary/authentic people?

Jack, withdraw your endorsement for Mitt now. It’s not too late for you to throw your hat in the ring you know!


Posted by Dansk | Report as abusive

Have known a few CEOs in my time and while they were “salt of the earth” people among their peers a whole different persona exists when amongst their “lessers”. Romney appears typical in that respect. Even in debates his facial expressions and body language suggest he doesn’t consider his opponents his peers. His reaction to, at times inane, questions in interviews is clearly testy. No doubt a common feeling for candidates for high office but the trick is in avoiding the appearance of pomposity.

His primary argument for choosing him is he was successful in business, therefore, he understands economics sufficiently to be successful in running the country. Aristotle might have had trouble with that logic.

I’m afraid that the Romney we see in the campaign is the “authentic” Romney. He’s a WYSIWYG candidate and for the common folk that is not a comforting thought. Outside of foreign relations, and the world does not suffer a pompous POTUS gladly, the biggest job for a POTUS is instilling trust and faith in the populace. Its’ akin to: “Nothing happens until somebody sells something” and Romney seems less intent on selling something than in dictating something.

Romney is stereotypical of why, with all due respect, I am adamantly opposed to former CEOs becoming POTUS. Their modus operandi is often at odds with the realities of governing, especially an entire nation.

I’ll give you that he seemed successful in governing MA but I also question how difficult that really was. MA is not AL or MS nor even CA.

Nice try but no cigar.

Posted by ArtALayman | Report as abusive

“He just doesn’t seem, as the nattering goes, very authentic.”

Doesn’t SEEM authentic? God save us from those who can’t think from their mind, only from emotions.

After all, that’s what got our present POTUS in office, and we’re paying dearly for it now. Check Romney’s platform. That’s what counts, it’s in writing, and it actually has concrete meaning…unlike these fortune teller “readings”.

Quit having “Feelings” about candidates and use your cognative ability….if the current administration hasn’t regulated that, too.

Posted by ConradU812 | Report as abusive

Does anyone (including Romney) know who the real Romney is anymore?

No matter, it will all “Shake Out” come the fall, right?

Posted by Adam.Smith | Report as abusive

It is sad to read and listen to Jack and Suzy Welch trying to sell Mitt Romney to the American voter. I would expect that Jack would understand that the President of the United States is a world leader. Romney is the type leader that runs against the grain of 90 percent of the world leaders. Just like Bush the world will have to sit and wait 4 more years just see Romney go. Romney is weak on references if you look at this track record. His claim regarding the success of Stables is a reputation that requires a lot of salt to digest. The main area weak Romney has made money are borderline situations where the success could be questioned from the moral or legal standpoint. Jack you have to do more reseach. Romney is not a vision man and will bring no direction for the future of the United States. I understand you want him because he is the last standing Republican. The manner or should I say the tone of your reasoning is “If that is all we have got then lets vote for him.”. That is just not good enough. If Romney has not learned the games of politics in 2012 then he will never learn. Jack if you have a weak product then you as a former CEO have got to face the reality and cut the product out of the program. Talking about Obama´s enemy list is also a poor approach. Listen to Romney every day he has something negative to say about Obama. Use the YouTube. Listen to Romney and his wife pushes you to Obama. What do I want out of Jack and Suzy – honesty. Jack lay the cards on the table, so that we believe that you still have the makings of a CEO.

Posted by MoeCoates | Report as abusive

For authentic sages, the road to excess candor is the palace of wisdom – Overdeliver :) :) :)

Posted by Neilwal | Report as abusive

What did Oscar Wilde say? ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’

Posted by Neilwal | Report as abusive