President Obama

Back at the election of President Obama, I took a look at this ‘Leadership/Management’ balance with the conclusion that he was a rare breed who mastered and balanced both. The conclusion was based on how he dissected and articulated the issues of his platform and on the masterful execution of a remarkably effective and successful two year national campaign.

But now we have his first anniversary at the executive reigns. A prominent enough milestone to look at how performance in executive office compares to the campaign trail. My favourite political writer, analyst and commentator – Andrew Sullivan – wrote a superb piece in this week’s Sunday Times which captures many of my views on year one and reinforces my assessment of a year ago.

“Obama is a liberal pragmatist in politics and a traditional conservative in his understanding of the presidency. Once you grasp this, his first year makes much more sense…But for anyone taking the long view, it is hard to see where Obama has really gone wrong.”

Averting downside like a Manager? He avoided economic collapse with “a pretty good balance in putting a bottom under the economy without adding too much debt.” He has avoided a debacle in Afghanistan and Iraq, by deflating ‘inflammatory rhetoric’ and maintaining (and even escalating) investment, military and other, to make sure that however misguided the entry into these countries has been, the exit would yield the most positive outcome. As Sullivan says, “I have to reserve judgement in the fog of war…[Obama’s big decisions] seemed like the least worst option on the table.”

Optimising upside like a Leader? He has forged ahead with his campaign promise of expanding health insurance and health industry reform in his vision of a more humane, more efficient and more sustainable (as the population ages) system. He risked the wrath of American uber-patriotic arrogance by demonstrating humility and compassion to the world including countries and groups that seem to be mostly adversaries. While flag-wavers at home shrieked at the deference expressed in everything from a bow to a landmark speech, the actual outcome was “a huge drop in Al-Qaeda’s popularity in the Muslim world, a huge rise in American sentiment around the globe.”

Yes, more than ever Obama is proving himself to be that rare breed of switch-hitting, both-way (offense/defence) playing, swing-man of an executive. As Sullivan concludes, “As with all of Obama’s revolutions, this was a quiet one. But in the eye of history, my guess is it will be seen as game-changing for America and the world.”