I live in Iowa, home of the early caucus, so the airwaves and mailboxes are inundated with candidate messages vying for support. I used to be annoyed with them but I have reframed my listening to see who can come up with the most outlandish promise. In the running: increase the number of doctors by ten-fold and eliminate medical deserts, provide all primary care for free, institute term limits for Congress, and hold college tuition dollars for five years to verify that the graduate has a job before the school is paid.

You may like some of these ideas but the reality is that they are almost certain not to happen. The candidates skip over the pesky little notion that the President doesn’t get to enact such things unilaterally and that others may have a hand in determining policy or figuring out how to pay for it.

It’s true in government and in all forms of leadership. The person at the top can obviously set the tone but they don’t have a magic wand to do whatever they’d like. Not only are there external rules to follow but internal support to garner and compromises to be struck. Any leader will tell you that only a fraction of what they’d like to do is actually able to be done.

As you listen to stump speeches, pitches in your boardroom, and promises by your kids about who will take care of that dog, be sure to hear it through the filter of reality. It’s a lot easier to think big than to deliver it.

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