Obama Leadership and Management


O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.” – William Shakespeare

It with my ‘Leader/Manager’ hat on that praise President Obama here. Obama has repeatedly proven himself as one of those rare executives who can ‘hit both ways’ in both ‘Leading’ and ‘Managing’. Ironically, such balance can be a vulnerability in a polarized world as the extreme Leaders criticize him for inaction and the extreme Managers criticize him for radicalism. Often when you are pissing off both sides of an issue with about equal measure, then you are probably hitting just about right.

And a big area that Obama has gotten the balance right is in his wielding of military power and strategy. He has not been afraid to use the powerful resources of America’s unmatched military in drone campaigns, and the capture of Bin Laden. Leadership undertakes initiative with costs and risks for an aspiration of a larger overall gain. But the focus of his strategy has really been on of how not to use the military – withdrawal from Iraq, withdrawal from Afghanistan, rejuvenated diplomatic outreach. Exercising Management to solve international problems and avoid the downside of destructive conflict. Such a strategy has been more powerful than any bomb – building rapport and influence in the Middle East, reducing outlays during difficult economic times, reducing Iraq and Afghanistan dependency, fostering independent nation building, and above all to minimizing American soldiers in harm’s way.

I could go on with Obama;s quite a strong record in his few years at helm (bequeathed to him in the most miserable state). His Leadership in passing Healthcare Reform. Whether you agree or disagree with the policy itself, you have to acknowledge his Leadership in making a change that had bested Clinton (Hilary as much as Bill) and Kennedy (Ted). His Management is accepting a number of difficult compromises with the Republicans in order to avoid the catastrophic downsides of economic collapse.

I probably shouldn’t be writing about this subject if I know what is good for me. Politics is divisive and any position I put forth is likely to alienate about half my readers. Still, I’m always a bit astonished about how the top blogs on Leadership and Management rarely venture into commentary about the US Presidential elections. Here we have arguably the biggest Leadership/Management position in the world and purported pundits refrain from commenting on it. To me it seems like the ultimate stress test for one’s perspectives and pet models.

One blogger told me that ‘Politics’ isn’t ‘Leadership and Management’ and I can appreciate that sentiment. Nonetheless, I still find it a bit detached, ‘ivory tower’  and even cowardly to assert some sort of authority on this subject and not examine the biggest instance of it in the world. The position of ‘Chief Executive’ or ‘Commander in Chief’ is a Leader/Manager position and ‘politics’ happens to surround it. Both in the boardroom and in the Capitol. But that enveloping doesn’t have to mean that the Chief becomes solely a politician, nor does it mean that the role doesn’t ideally transcend politics to whatever degree possible.

It shouldn’t be about the partisanship or even the policies. If the focus of the site is on ‘Leadership and Management’, then the perspectives should reflect that dimension. I do veer toward the left/liberal/progressive/Democratic, but I will be the first to tear into that side for their inconsistencies and missteps. And I would vote for Republican Colin Powell for President in a heartbeat. But, for now, I go on record applauding and supporting Obama’s record of ‘Leadership’ and ‘Management’ and wish him well this week as his nomination becomes official.