After a summer recess, Congress is back in session and they have a long list of things to accomplish. Approving new spending bills for next year and avoiding defaulting are at the top of this list (this is nothing new). Due to the recent natural disasters, there are two other important priorities: continuing Hurricane Harvey and Irma relief efforts and renewing the national flood insurance program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
With much to accomplish, what characteristics and skills do congressional leaders need to be successful in passing legislation?
• Assertiveness – Standing up for one’s beliefs and being able to confidently take charge of difficult situations, making tough decisions despite opposition.
In a politically charged environment where everyone is vying for their opinion to be heard, being assertive is key.
• Building Alliances – Earning trust and respect from others and taking the time to build effective working relationships with individuals.
Being able to create relationships with members of Congress (especially within their own parties, but also across the aisle) is very important. When it comes down to ensuring you have the votes you need in order to pass a piece of legislation, a lot depends on the strength of your ties with others.
• Commitment - Passionately and enthusiastically demonstrating a dedication to the causes and beliefs you espouse.
Congressional leaders work long hours and a good part of sustaining the energy needed to get their work done comes down to basic commitment.
• Conflict Resolution - Effectively resolving misunderstandings, disagreements, and disputes with other individuals. Directly addressing issues with others in a non-threatening manner. Being willing to compromise in order to maintain effective working relationships.
Even within the same political parties, conflicts can frequently arise. Members of Congress come from all over the country and regional differences can sometimes result in personality conflicts. Being able to adeptly work these out is crucial in order to get things done.
• Influence - Using a variety of persuasion tactics, interpersonal skills, and communication and presentation strategies to convince others to make decisions that are mutually beneficial to all parties involved.
Good politicians must be persuasive, and this is even more true for political leaders. With so many competing priorities to attend to, having the ability to influence is a must.
• Presentation Skills - Using effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills to clearly deliver information to a variety of audiences. Being confident and comfortable when speaking in front of groups. Making presentations that are clear, engaging and impactful.
It probably goes without saying that political leaders need to be effective at presenting their views and policies. In an age where public statements can be quickly broadcast via various mediums, this takes on even more gravity.
Arguably, there are many more competencies that are important for congressional leaders to possess. And since they are often in the limelight, any missteps become glaringly obvious to the public. As Congress works to accomplish the many things on their agenda this fall, we will surely be able to see their various leadership qualities on display.