Sunday, May 17, 2009

Attack Ads are a Coward's Way to "Lead"

Attack ads work, so say marketing researchers. Like the movie “Doubt”, they inject a little unease about the person being attacked into the minds of some or many. We are assumed to be like Pavlov’s dog open to having our minds programmed. Is this OK with us? Do we accept this as par for the course to advance our society?

Evolutionary psychologists might know why. Could it be that attack ads, of which many poke cruel fun at the person not the issues, appeal automatically to our more primal instincts associated with rage, terror and self-preservation?

This is one way to lead. Create fear and doubt. But, to what end? Where’s the beef, as the saying goes?

Since the top universal valued leadership skill is to be inspiring, leaders who use negativity as a key strategy to govern are severely limiting their effectiveness. When we have huge issues requiring smart political attention, attack ads seem frivolous and a waste of money.

It takes courage for any leader to table an ambitious agenda and then steer it through the muddy waters. A wise and comfortable within self leader understands and encourages rigorous debate because it is part of finding good solutions. Understandably, tossing around ideas is messy and oftentimes lengthy. But, it sure beats perpetuating street fighting for no other reason than to create havoc in our minds without a higher purpose.

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