I have long admired former Republican Sens. Richard Lugar (Ind.) and John Warner (Va.) and only recently learned that they both had contributed to Michelle Nunn’s bid to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) for the upper house of Congress.
Conservatives Lugar and Warner championed bipartisanship legislation on numerous occasions for the good of the country, not unlike Michelle's father, the esteemed conservative-to-moderate Democrat Sen. Sam Nunn (Ga.), who served with distinction in the U.S. Senate for 24 years. Warner, Lugar and Nunn didn’t always agree as the record shows but more often than not they combined their unique vision and pragmatism with a steadfastness to carefully build necessary compromise to enact vital measures, especially on national security and foreign affairs.
Now, some 18 years after Sam Nunn retired from the Senate, his 47-year-old Democratic senatorial candidate daughter seeks to perpetuate the family tradition. To her credit, she has come a long way since she walked the pecan orchards as a little girl on her parents’ southern farm.
Brandishing many of the attributes and skills of her parents (her mother worked in the State Department)—analytical, thoughtful, socially conscious, service-oriented, astute, centric, independent and bipartisan by instinct and practice—Michelle Nunn is understandably cautious at this stage of the race. Georgia is not the same state it was when her father represented it. Competition, population shifts from the country to cities and important demographic changes must all be dealt with carefully if her dream is to be realized.
By most standards, Michelle Nunn has performed magnificently in her varied non-profit organizational leadership roles for many years. Having personally served on multiple boards of directors and trustees for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, I would suggest that it is often more challenging and painstaking to build the required consensus and alignment of volunteers, board members and clients in the non-profit world than in many for-profit environments. Such experience will be an especially important requisite for success in Washington, given the all too frequent petty bickering and name calling which thwarts the search for effective solutions.
As a student of the leadership field for more than three decades, permit me to list 10 of the most important steps Michelle Nunn must take now to prevail in the November election:
· Reveal her moral compass
· Do her homework and clearly articulate her positions on major issues facing Georgians and the country
· Demonstrate her passion to work for those less fortunate
· Showcase her humility
· Attract many more testimonials and campaign surrogates from both sides of the political spectrum
· Translate persuasively how her non-profit leadership experience will be instrumental in forging bipartisanship and making progress in a divided Congress
· Show how she has had to run her organization frugally, not unlike small businesses
· Unveil how women in leadership positions work successfully but often differently than many men
· Be bold, decisive and clear about why all Georgians—blacks, whites, younger and older-- should strongly consider supporting her candidacy
· Utilize her father’s friends and allies wisely and seek help on the hustings from veteran luminaries like Andrew Young, Bill Clinton, John Lewis and many other younger and popular leaders, but define herself as her own person
If elected, Michelle Nunn has enormous potential to be a very effective senator for the Peach State but she will need to appeal directly to a broad cross-section of the electorate in a much less nuanced way than she did in the primary so voters get to know this cerebral yet caring person behind the horn-rimed glasses. She clearly has “the chops” to be an effective bridge-building solon if given the opportunity but it is a long, arduous, pit-filled journey to November. And, the gloves are now off!
Eich, Ph.D (Michigan), author of Real Leaders Don’t Boss (Career Press, 2012) and Leadership Requires Extra Innings (2013, with Second City Publishing), is president of the Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based consulting firm, Eich Associated. He is a retired captain, U.S. Naval Reserve who has served on Congressional committees for senators Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.).