The real division in US politics is not left versus right but Managerists versus pragmatists. During the BP Gulf oil spill, cable TV-pundit David Gergen said that one of the things President Obama should have done was:
Given Cabinet officers an ultimatum: Get this under control in the next 30 days, or else.As if all it took to stop a high pressure flow of petroleum starting a mile under the ocean surface in a tangle of broken piping and extending miles down from that, in the dark, in pressure that can crumple submarines like foil was a showing of management determination and "toughness". This ridiculous advice was applauded on cable news, on Fox, and on the supposedly left/liberal DailyKos web site. There was a hard technical problem that was not easily solved, that would take time to address, that maybe didn't have a good solution: but in Managerism, all problems are solvable by Leadership and Vision and, of course, marketing. Like Donald Trump, a leader, needs to fire someone, hold them accountable, be decisive, you know, show some leadership in order to fix anything. For the Manager Party all problems can be solved by memo and foot stomping: fix that oil leak or else, buddy - and I'm gonna need you to come in on Sunday! America's first MBA President, George W. Bush, was a Managerist and he was great at foot stomping and the kind of disastrous "leadership" that is fashionable in America's dysfunctional corporations. But the Manager Party also includes left-liberals like Robert Reich. Reich also had advice for Obama on the BP oil spill: "If the government can take over giant global insurer AIG and the auto giant General Motors and replace their CEOs, in order to keep them financially solvent, it should be able to put BP's North American operations into temporary receivership in order to stop one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history." The lack of any legal authority for the US government to put a solvent foreign company into "temporary receivership" didn't stop Reich, because Leadership is above such technicalities. That's why Gergen's first suggestion of what Obama shoulda done was:
Brought in the CEOs of all the major oil companies and charged them with the duty of an all-hands collaborative effort to stop the spill and help ward off the damage.So there's really hard engineering problem to solve, the government and industry have put together the best experts they can find, assembled skilled workers and equipment and people who actually have knowledge are working 24/7, but the President should have "brought in the CEOs of the major oil companies" and, by golly charged them with a duty! Maybe they could have put out a power point presentation or two or developed a reorganization plan. Perhaps there was a memo cover sheet they could have developed. Most Americans have experienced Managerial Leadership in Action - which is why Dilbert is so popular and movies like Office Space become cult hits. President Obama is not above criticism and I strongly disagree with some of his actions as President, but I support his efforts to replace the image and status focused style of "leadership" that is endemic in government and business with getting stuff done. Often that requires compromise, even with unreasonable people, and more often it requires hard work involving expertise and the patient problem solving that is nearly unknown in America's dysfunctional management class. And many critics of the President, on the left as much as on the right, are critics of that pragmatism more than the policies. Look at Stephen Chu on the right: he's no Donald Trump, that's for sure. Harvard Business School, the school that gave George W. Bush a MBA degree, spelled it out (to be fair, in a guest post )
What's the advice? Well, it's kinda sadly familiar if you watch Cable TV or read blogs. There is Negotiation 101. Great leaders are patient — and they never cave quickly. Many never cave, period. It took all of six months for Obama to abandon the health care reform Democrats have fought decades for. That kind of impatience is a surefire recipe for leadership failure: adversaries know they can get the better of you with little investment. George W. Bush never caved. He was a Leader. By the way, the post I am quoting was published in August of 2009 and Obama signed the health care bill in March 2010. And then we have one of the staples of Leadership advice: fictional courage.
President Obama is an ineffective leader, one unable to transform power into policy, resources into action. Here's why — and how not to make the same mistakes whenever and wherever you're called on to lead.
Mr Miyagi taught Daniel-san that fighting is for wimps — but he also taught Daniel-san that when bullies bring the fight to you, fight back as publicly and honorably as possible. Sometimes, bullies need to be taught a lesson. When you're trying to lead — but others shout you down — the time for softball is over. In situations of coercion, your power as a leader is never more necessaryThe rest of it is actually too embarrassing to quote despite the expertise of the author
Umair Haque is Director of the Havas Media Lab and author of The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business. He also founded Bubblegeneration, an agenda-setting advisory boutique that shaped strategies across media and consumer industries.Agenda-setting advisory boutiques might be able to help the President do some level setting, stay in the swim lane, and stick to his knitting while guarding shareholder value and penciling in some off sites on conference call value add. Actually, it's pretty hard to satirize management speak in full flower. Harvard has more useless advice that provides a clue about what's really going on.
There is a noticeable void today of principle-driven leadership in business and society. In the depths of a major crisis—much like the one we're in now—is where a principled approach to leadership and decision-making is most needed. The leaders who successfully navigate their organizations through crises are ones who focused on their leadership principles and stayed true to their values. Only by practicing a clear set of principles can we ensure that the recovery is long-lasting and that future business is sustainable. As a society, we need to get back to practicing values-centered leadership. That's the only way we can restore integrity to leadershipMost of our top corporate management, reporters, pundits, and consultants are skilled at getting ahead in the organization or made a good choice of parents who already had status. They are not expert lathe operators or carpenters or physicists or chemists or engineers. If you read about the collapse of Wall Street in 2008, you learn that, in general, the top executives had no idea what their companies were doing and had no ability to estimate risks. They certainly didn't have the skills to decide that a high tech battery plant or a wind turbine farm was a better investment than a pile of mortgages: in fact, the vast mathematical machinery invented for Wall Street firms was intended to make that kind of detailed knowledge obsolete, to let high level aggregate statistics make it unnecessary to know anything at all but odds computed by lower level employees. The reporters who cover business and government are in the same boat. None of them understand technology or science or accounting or manufacturing - what they understand is "leadership" and image. And what they cannot stand at all is the idea that Steve Chu's physics knowledge or the knowledge of some plumber could threaten their status.