Apprentice in Chief
Presidential campaigns help indentify unelectable kooks like the screaming Howard Dean. They even help spotlight unprepared candidates like Rick Perry. They also have low job performance predictive validity.
I like Newt Gingrich’s proposal for Lincoln-Douglas style debates, but we also need a candidate assessment tool with a strong relationship to job performance. For America’s most important job, we need America’s “ultimate job interview.” We need “Presidential Apprentice.”
On the campaign trail, candidates are afforded many opportunities to reveal their communication skills, intelligence and temperament. While these attributes are useful in running a community organization, they may not be enough to lead our great country.
Consider that Carter, a trained Nuclear Physicist, was intelligent but succumbed to “analysis paralysis.” Clinton was smart and slick but his presidency was problematic. Obama is an intelligent communicator with a cool temperament; however, he often shirks from crucial decisions in favor of political expediency. For example, development of our energy sector would create jobs and spur our economy; yet, caught between two of his competing constituencies – labor and environmentalists – he delayed decision on the Keystone oil pipeline.
The rigors of the campaign trail favor smart candidates who give pretty speeches and are prolific fundraisers, astute panderers and quick-witted in debates. Intelligence is a starting point, but we need a campaign test that reveals other traits required to be an effective president such as leadership, judgment, honesty and problem solving prowess.
Research shows that work sample tests have the highest validity in predicting job performance. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, for example, lists work sample tests as having the highest validity (degree to which assessment scores are related to future job performance) out of 15 different assessment tools.
Work sample tests focus on the actual tasks performed on the job; they’re based on the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is behavior observed under similar situations.
This is how NBC describes Celebrity Apprentice: “Just as in the regular ‘Apprentice,’ the celebrities will be subjected to long hours, grueling mental challenges, personality clashes, and intense scrutiny – all without the help of their regular support system of agents, managers, and personal assistants.” With a little tinkering, that sounds like a useful way to help an often bewildered public choose our next president.
In addition to debates, presidential candidates could be invited to participate in Presidential Apprentice. They’d be given real-world scenarios, and the candidate, as project manager, could select his or her team. A potential task could be: “Develop a plan to stimulate private sector job growth without increasing the federal deficit.” The plan would not be just a list of steps, but include a method to usher it through Congress, and to implement it with the fewest regulations possible.
We could give them one week, maybe two if we sacrifice a debate for this more predictive assessment tool. TV cameras will be privy to their internal machinations, including assembling the team, establishing report structures, milestones, planning, leadership, execution and monitoring.
During this brief “Presidential Apprentice” curriculum we might sneak a peak into how our leaders marshal resources under deadline pressure, not just how well they read from a teleprompter to cherry-picked audience members.
Perhaps in a televised town hall format, the project groups will assemble to deliver their executive report. Video clips of their group interactions can be followed by audience questions. Voting or dramatic boardroom showdowns, as in the progenitor series, aren’t necessary; the public can draw their own conclusions.
This brief “Presidential Apprentice” program will unveil our candidates’ skills in solving real-world problems unprotected from the shield of spin-merchants and coddling advisers who could coach a neophyte to avoid direct answers.
Another compelling benefit is that the show would educate voters who might not otherwise be engaged. Polls show that many Americans can’t name all the branches of government, or they believe that Karl Marx helped write our constitution. Surveys by Pew Research indicate that politicians get elected by people who don’t know their platforms. No wonder some voters are duped by catchy slogans like “Change we can believe in.”
The “Presidential Apprentice” would help rectify this: lured by the high entertainment of watching highfalutin politicians stumble through project milestones, viewers mightn’t even realize they’re being educated at the same time.
Resumes can be tweaked by clever politicians, but an apprenticeship will not lie. Let’s inject this entertaining yet reliable measurement device into laborious presidential campaigns. The voting public should know whether our next leader can run something other than his glib mouth. By Noel S. Williams.