Judging our candidates as leaders

Story highlights

  • Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says candidates should be carefully evaluated on character, presence and intellect
  • Hertling: Do we as a nation trust this leader to do the right thing, for all people, in the toughest of situations?
  • A real leader's presence shows confidence, but does not reflect arrogance, hubris or cockiness, he says

Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, former Commander of US Army Europe and 7th Army, served for more than 37 years and spent more than three years in combat. He is a CNN military analyst and the author of "Growing Physician Leaders." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)As a military analyst, I've often been asked to comment on various candidates -- Democrats and Republicans -- when they state their view on a particular national security or military affairs issue.

Mark Hertling
I've attempted to remain apolitical when discussing each issue from a martial viewpoint, commenting on what works or doesn't work on the battlefield, or how elements of a strategy I've seen applied with our allies, partners, or foes affect a desired outcome. My goal is always to analyze the issue while refraining from judging the personality of the candidate. Admittedly, I have sometimes failed in the latter.
That happens because while performing those duties for CNN, I am also evaluating the leadership abilities of the candidates based on the military criteria of leadership I've learned during my four-decade career wearing our country's cloth. Truthfully, the measures those in uniform apply aren't that complicated. They center on the term "attributes," and are measured by the three words: "Be-Know-Do."
    The leader's character, presence and intellect describe the "being" and "knowing" element of attributes.

    The right stuff

    Character describes who the candidates are: the values they hold dear, the self-discipline they apply and the service ethos that guides their performance. Have they been imbued with the right stuff, will they act when necessary, and are they selfless or self-serving?
    Character will determine how leaders view and understand others, and how they apply their moral principles to decision making when tackling very complex problems. As importantly, character involves how a leader views serving the citizens of our nation.
    The factor of character contributes to leaders doing the right thing -- not what is popular or will generate the most applause or highest numbers in the polls. Character provides the leader with the courage and self-discipline to decide what is appropriate for all the citizens of our country when there are tough problems or difficult times.
    The key question one should ask: Do we as a nation trust this leader to do the right thing, for all people, in the toughest of situations?

    Confidence, not arrogance

    The leader's presence is apparent in actions, words and manner. A real leader's presence shows confidence, but does not reflect arrogance, hubris or cockiness.