This year, Super Tuesday became Super Twosday and got the USA to a choice between two for the Democratic nomination for President. Kudos to anyone with the courage to throw their hat in the ring at any point. They each did the country a service by participating in the discourse. And we’ll see more from many of them in years to come. The lesson from yesterday’s voting is that people seemed to value relationships, message, and resources – in that order.
Joe Biden is a flawed candidate. His stance on some issues in the past, the way he treated some people while he was in the senate, and his occasional speaking gaffs are issues. He was the front-runner and then stumbled on getting his message right and raising enough money to support a strong organization and media presence.
But he won at least nine of the fourteen states contested Super Tuesday. Tommy Christopher put it well in his last comment on Biden’s response to the question “What drives you? What’s your fire?”
Biden’s answer was “Decency and honor and restoring this country’s …. Everyone is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity.”
Christopher noted that “Biden apologized for giving too much answer, but the exchange illustrated the essence of The Biden Show: freewheeling, personal, and overflowing with authenticity.”
Biden won based on his relationships:
- People relate to that freewheeling, personal, authentic style. This guy’s not hiding anything.
- People have known Biden for a long time. He’s stood up for the middle class and unions forever. They relate to that.
- Key people jumped on his bandwagon after his early win in South Carolina. Amy Klobuchar’s endorsement undoubtedly gave him Minnesota. Pete Buttigieg’s endorsement calmed some nerves. Beto O’Rourke’s endorsement had to help in Texas.
Biden seemed lost at the Las Vegas debate. Organizing his thoughts around decency, honor and dignity now goes hand in hand with his relationship building.
Bernie Sanders message is crystal clear – “justice for all.” It resonates with anyone feeling that they’ve been treated unjustly. Enough people in Vermont, Colorado and California buy into what he’s saying for him to have won those states yesterday. Bernie builds relationships with people and has raised enough money to support an organization and the media necessary to take him through the race.
Mike Bloomberg has no resource constraints. He had 2400 people working for him in the Super Tuesday states. He spent ten times as much in advertising as did Sanders who, in turn, spent three times as much as Biden.
But yesterday, resources weren’t enough. Not enough people connected with Bloomberg’s message of managerial competence. Not enough people were able to relate to Bloomberg.
Rank Biden first on relationships, second on message, and last on resources.
Rank Sanders first on message, second on relationships, and second on resources.
Rank Bloomberg first on resources, and last on relationships and message.
Implications for your leadership
Relationships, message and resources all matter. While they are interconnected, think about them in that order.
- Think relationships first. Always. The only thing any leader can do by themselves is to fail. As a leader, you’re defined by your followers whether they work for you, with you or are competitors who join your cause. Think Be. Do. Say. Build your relationships on who you really are. Live your message. Then say what you think.
- Invest in your organizing concept. Whether you are interviewing for a new job, an executive onboarding into a new role or leading others through change, leverage an organizing concept to connect your thinking and strategy with what you’re trying to communicate.
- Assemble the right resources. Strategy is about the creation and allocation of resources to the right place in the right way at the right time over time. You need to do this to activate your organizing concept and build your relationships.
Remember, these are not either/or choices. Biden, Sanders and Bloomberg did all three really really well. It’s why they were the top three finishers. As a leader, you have to do all three. But at least on Super Twosday, there’s evidence that relationships mattered most. Message mattered almost as much. And resources came third.
Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #623) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.