As we move into the presidential debates and get more inundated with commercials, what and who are you to believe or trust?  How will you decide on whom to vote for in this important election?

As a psychologist, leadership consultant and master executive coach every four years I get discouraged and disgusted with our leadership role models intent on negative campaigns, acting like adolescents and instilling basic fear about the opposing candidates.

Here I want to give you a scorecard to help you be more objective about your decisions using some of the Emotional Intelligence leadership competencies and identified derailers I bring to organizations. This is a two part blog, where I will first address the trust issues with a scorecard and then in the next blog add other leadership competencies to a larger scorecard where you can rate the candidates.

Thinking about your Thinking

Most of us are on autopilot and don’t really think hard and long on things, which we really need for this selection of our next president. Daniel Kahneman who wrote Thinking, Fast and Slow says we don’t like to think slow, which are the times when we analyze, assess and compare, because we are “cognitively lazy.” We would rather take short cuts or believe sound bites rather than really think. How long do you want to think about a brain teaser when a friend gives you one, before you say just “tell me the answer?”

Kahneman says “Judgments and decisions are guided directly by feelings of liking and disliking, with little deliberation or reasoning.”

In their book Decisive, Chip and Dan Heath say “Why do we have such a hard time making good choices? …When it comes to making decisions, it is clear that our brains are flawed instruments.”

This Debate Scorecard is to get you to do some slow thinking, reasoning and engage your executive functioning versus taking a short cut informed by your biases.


One of the assessments I use with leaders is the Emotional Quotient Inventory, 2.0 and it has a competency called Reality Testing, which it defines as “the capacity to remain objective by seeing things as they really are. This capacity involves recognizing when emotions or personal bias can cause one to be less objective.” (EQi, 2.0, 2011)

 Do you

Recognize your own biases? Know when your emotions affect your objectivity?

Our political system highlights the lack of reality testing as each party views any new information or data through the lens of their political beliefs and biases. Psychologist call this the confirmation bias, we look for what confirms our existing opinions.

So to minimize biases, I have identified key competencies to consider in your candidate selection process. Three are from David Gergen’s experience, as an advisor to presidents Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and a political analyst today. They are Character, Ambition and Judgment. The others are from my experience working with emotional intelligence and leadership. Trust, Likeability, Inspirational Leadership and limiting Derailers. Each of these competencies influences the others, they all overlap. This blog will address the trust competency and then read the next blog to see the full checklist with the other leadership competencies mentioned above.

This checklist is designed as a starting place, not an end. Feel free to add your own competencies as my goal is to give you a tool to be objective and slow thinking as you rate the candidates for the highest job application in the land.

Trust is first competency and we will explore to better be able to evaluate the candidates on it.

You can rate Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump below on a 1-10, when 10 is high. You can also use this to rate other candidates or new hires or employees at work or use in your personal relationships.

Trust: This is the foundation of any relationship be it your significant others, leader or your president. It is the green light that allows relationship to move forward, grow and deepen. Without trust there is doubt, skepticism and uncertainty and it is like driving with your emergency brake on and limits your acceleration and forward progress.

Merriam-Webster defines it as: The belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. 

Trust allows you to give the person the benefit of the doubt, you are confident in what they are and what they represent. It is usually one of the first questions we hear in smear campaigns. Can you really trust…? The result is to instill fear and doubt about the candidate.

When we are experiencing fear the amygdala part of the brain is engaged and we can do some sloppy thinking. With executives I talk about losing some IQ points temporarily, when the amygdala is activated.  Making an informed decision based on criteria that you evaluate helps activate your prefrontal cortex the part of the brain that has executive functioning and helps maintain your IQ points. 

See my earlier blog on Where did My IQ Points go:

Gergen in his book Eyewitness to Power, wrote about trust, “First, leaders have to earn people’s trust. Then they can mobilize them. Personal integrity is obviously the bedrock. Few things can sabotage a leader more effectively than being perceived as a liar, as President Nixon and, to a lesser degree, President Clinton discovered.”

In Michael Weisman’s Choosing Higher Ground, he states trust doesn’t lie and then quotes Warren Buffett, “Honesty is a very expensive gift, don’t expect it from cheap people.”

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have found in almost 40 years of research from over 75,000 people in their Leadership Challenge books that two of the four most characteristics of admired leaders are #1 Honesty and  #4 Competent, which are two of components of trust below.

As you think of rating the candidates on trust.

1. Do they publicly admit mistakes?

The Hay Group discovered this behavior differentiating top performers from average performers when they researched the Emotional Intelligence. If a person can’t admit they made a mistake they are not taking responsibility for it, therefore it could happen again raising their unpredictability below. Also you then became pre-occupied attending to what they are not attending to. When celebrities make a mistake we all are waiting for them to apologize and rate if it sounds sincere. Think of the Lance of Armstrong or Tiger Woods incidents.

2. Honesty: Are they Dishonest or Unhonest?

“Unhonest” is a made up term. We know if someone is deemed honest we trust them, dishonest we distrust them. Unhonesty is very common when someone omits, minimizes, exaggerates points and doesn’t really answer the questions. They are not being outright dishonest but the effects are the same - we don’t trust them. In the debates there are many half-truths, white lies, over exaggerated claims, and avoidance of the question. Are they outright lying, probably not but they fall into the unhonesty category and that impacts our trust for them. What else are they not being forthright on?

How would rate them on honesty?

Three behaviors I have assessed with leaders, since reading a Psychology Today article on trust years ago are: Competency, Predictability and Dependability. I have found this discussion with leaders very helpful for which area should they focus on with themselves and their direct reports.

3. Are they competent in the skills and experience needed to lead the country?

The presidency is an almost impossible job with the amount of VUCA variables presented daily to them. VUCA is from the military and stands for Volatile, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambigous situations. Does the candidate’s background allow them to navigate this “whitewater.” Does their past prepare them for the unexpected? Do they have a track record of success? This component usually gets good ratings for leaders in the corporate world when compared to the other two below. For the presidency though, the amount of complexity, unintended consequences, moving parts and volatility of each decision the president makes has this competency critical for not only the U.S but worldwide safety, peace, economic growth and stability.

4. Are they predictable?

Do you know what results you will get from them? They are consistent and reliable in their behavior. Do they do what they say they will do? Are you worried you may be let down?

If predictable you don’t have to take up your brain space wondering will you get what you expect.  If not some of your brain space is occupied with backfilling what if they don’t show up, miss a deliverable, or is that really true what they said? In the election we have fact finders to research did that happen as they reported. In our relationships we don’t have this professional resource and therefore become pre-occupied with trying to control that which the person is not doing. The lack of predictability I have found is the key characteristic that destroys, deteriorates and undermines trust in relationships.

Gambling and addictions is fraught with unpredictability. We see people playing the slot machines for hours because of the intermittent reinforcement they know they will win at some time, the 5th time, 50th or 500th time, but are poised that it could be the next time. The lotto in California even uses that tag line “Who is next?

This anticipation keeps the dopamine flowing the neuroscientist tell us. With someone unpredictable we are poised to be let down or disappointed again. Therefore we can’t trust them.

Some people say it is predictable they will be unpredictable. They are then unpredictable because you don’t know “when the other shoe will fall” and thus part of your brain is “on guard” depleting on your cognitive fuel on them rather than on more creative endeavors.

5. Are they Dependable and can you count or depend on them to be there when a crisis happens?

They show up and do the right thing when in a crunch. Predictability is about consistency over time and dependability is when they are needed most they not only show up, but shine.

They step up when needed. Rudy Giuliani became “America’s Mayor” and crystalized his legacy at 911. Winston Churchill stepped at the right time in World War II. George W. Bush lost points with Hurricane Katrina by not acting fast enough. If you have doubts then that is a lower score.

Here is the first Scorecard that has just the Trust competencies.

Debate ScoreCard for the Presidency: Trust

Rate each candidate on 1-10, where 10 is high using your best judgment and slow thinking.

               Characteristic:                            HC     DT


  1. ·        Publicly admit mistakes
  2. ·        Honesty
  3. ·        Competence
  4. ·        Predictability
  5. ·        Dependability   


So take some time to contemplate your scores and what do they mean to you?

When you read the next blog you can rate the candidates on the other EI Leadership Competencies to help make an informed decision for yourself.

In Leading with Emotional Intelligence there are over 100 strategies that leaders can do to increase and sustain their performance.  A few micro initiatives can have a macro impact. For free EI tools go to:


Gergen. D. (2001) Eye Witness to Power. New York: Simon and Shuster

Heath, C. and  Heath D. (2013) Decisive. New York: Crown Publishing Group

Hay Group (2001), Emotional Competency Inventory, Boston, MA.

Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking: Fast and Slow, New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux

Kouzes, J and Posner, B (2012) The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organization, New York: Jossey-Bass

Merriam-Webster Dictionary by Merriam-Webster,

Nadler, R.S. (2011) Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Strategies to Develop Confident and Collaborative Star Performers. New York: McGraw-Hill

Weisman, M. (2016)  Choosing Higher Ground. Santa Ana, CA: Nortia Press

About the Author

Dr. Relly Nadler

Relly Nadler, M.C.C., is a licensed psychologist, author and Master Certified Coach (MCC) for executives and executive teams.

You are reading

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

10 Reasons Why Teams Need Emotional Intelligence

Actions to raise the EI of your team.

Debate Scorecard for Hiring the President: How to Evaluate

Leadership competencies to evaluate the presidential candidates.

Debate Scorecard for the Presidency: Trust

How do You Really Think and Decide? Our default system is to take short cuts.