"People smartness" essential to Bush's success as president

December 14, 2000

As George W. Bush becomes president and works to unite a deeply divided country, he'll need extraordinary "people" skills, a Temple University psychologist says.

"If he operates as the usual politician, in the usual ways, George W. Bush certainly won't win people over," says Mel Silberman, author of the book PeopleSmart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence (Berrett Kohler Publishers, Inc.).

"And if he tries to be likable and humble, that's not enough," Silberman continues. "To succeed in dealing with people--including Democrats, right wingers, and the American public in general--he's going to have to display a huge amount of interpersonal intelligence." Written as kind of an updated, year 2000 version of Dale Carnegie's famous 1937 book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Silberman's PeopleSmart outlines eight essential skills people need to improve their interpersonal intelligence.

Skill-by-skill, here's Silberman's take on what Bush needs to accomplish in order to make the most of the four years ahead:

Understanding people
"He must acknowledge the rifts in the country and demonstrate a profound understanding of people who do not already support him. If he doesn't, people won't open up to him," says Silberman, professor of adult and organizational development at Temple.

Expressing himself
"Bush has to express himself clearly and honestly and with enough detail so that the public understands his leadership and vision. He can't speak in sound bites."

Clearly asserting himself
"He needs to take daring stands that may be unpopular, especially with his constituency. It's very important for him to take a much grander view of things."

Obtaining feedback
"He must do a masterful job of accepting feedback and being open to feedback about his own performance. He almost has to say to the public, 'I want you to judge my performance. I'm serving you and I have to be completely accountable to you.'"

Influencing others
"Bush has to really influence the public, not just deal with political strategists. He needs to be inspiring and to communicate how all Americans will benefit from the direction in which he's trying to take the country."

Resolving conflict
"This is a time of incredible conflict. In order to be a real model, Bush has to acknowledge the differences that exist and be open to creative new options. This election has actually freed him up not to be a politician, not to get involved in partisanship. Now the person who doesn't play the partisanship game is the victor. Now the risk is to stay in that game."

Being a team player
"He has to recruit talent to meet the needs of the nation and he has to find people who come up with creative ideas. Bush needs to give credit to his opponents and especially be a team player when it comes to making Supreme Court appointments."

Shifting gears
"Bush can't make the mistake of always going by the polls. At the same time, he needs to understand that he's got to change tactics, switch gears, when things get in a rut." The key to "people smartness," says Silberman, is having the ability to bring out the best in others. For Bush, that's an awesome challenge, but not an insurmountable one, he says. "It's an incredible order, but also an incredible opportunity that he has," says Silberman. "Clearly, he has to take the initiative to bring out the best in people and in the country. And, conversely, if we're closed to his leadership, we'll bring out the worst in him."
A professor in Temple's College of Education for 32 years, Silberman is the author or editor of 26 books, including the best-selling Active Training and 101 Ways to Make Meetings Active. A Princeton, NJ resident, he is president of Active Training. Silberman can be reached through his web site at www.activetraining.com or through Temple's Office of News & Media Relations, 215-204-7476.

Temple University

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