Wisdom, experience, and leadership

I’m wondering if we should raise the minimum age to serve as President of the United States from 35 to around 55 or 60.

Okay, I’m kidding. Or maybe not.

Bill Clinton today

After watching a couple of recent Commencement speeches by former President Clinton (including one at the online Walden University, linked above), I find myself wishing that the Bill Clinton of today was in the White House.

He’s still the charmer, but more importantly he’s wiser and more comfortable in his own skin than the younger, ambitious man who served as President from 1992 to 2000.

I’m sure if he became President today, I wouldn’t be in full agreement with his positions. But I’d have a lot more faith that his decisions and policy stances were grounded in experience, wisdom, and understanding — including mistakes he’s made and what he’s learned from them.

Our obsession with youth

Our societal obsession with youth and youthfulness has extended into the leaders we seek, and that’s rarely a good thing.

All too often we elevate talented, promising people to high-level leadership positions before they are ready, or at least before they possess the experience and emotional intelligence to fulfill their considerable promise. (I put our current President in that category.)

School of Life

The School of Life is a valuable teacher. That’s why when it comes to leadership positions, in most cases I’ll opt for a talented, energetic, albeit weathered veteran over a shiny ingenue or a hyper-confident rookie.

Going with an untested leader is a crapshoot, plain and simple. Sometimes it works out well, but I’m convinced that — other things being relatively equal — we’ll get better results with more seasoned people at the helm.

3 responses

  1. Would Bill Clinton have the same wisdom if he hadn’t already been President? The job ages people like nothing I have ever seen, so an older POTUS is going to be a VERY old POTUS by the end of his term. We now know that Ronald Reagan suffered from dementia in the White House, which is a very scary thought.

  2. I think that at some point we all hopefully become comfortable in our own skins. That is to me the beginning of wisdom. All of the pretensions, hiding, and climbing over others all come from the lack of a comfortable sense of self.
    I also agree with Beth that POTUS experience really ages one. It also makes a unique place from which to provide advice and guidance. Only folks who have struggled with that job can truely understand the pressures and difficulties that any president deals with.
    I think that today’s Bill Clinton would be a welcome alternative that most people would vote for. As history progresses, we may find that he was one of the great presidents of this country.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with both you that the Presidency takes a lot out of an individual. In fact, I think that’s what makes Clinton pretty remarkable this regard — he’s weathered, but the spark is still there, and the intellect remains razor sharp.

    Generally speaking, the age range from late 30s through 40s is one of considerable personal ambition for strongly career minded individuals. They are propelled, energized, able to do prodigious amounts of work, but some are too caught up in individual aspirations and lacking in broader perspective. I don’t know how much of this is linked to a lack of that sense of self, but I find myself more wary of folks in that mode/stage, if only because I know I was in such a place earlier in my life!

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