Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Obama the New Manager

(I'll get this post out before the President's address to the nation tonight, because maybe he will change course and this thought will become OBE).

I briefly saw the President at a press conference with Admiral Allen on TV the other day. It struck me that something was wrong. I thought it was he seemed to be so engaged in the details. Too engaged in the details frankly. I thought the President should be providing the vision and bringing people together to find solutions. Not worrying about "whose ass to kick."

Then today I following a HotAir link to the Tina Brown article in The Daily Beast. She nails it
"Obama can’t change his cool disposition though it would be nice if he lost the vaguely grudging air he gives off that problems of management get in the way of ideas."
She goes on to describe how Bill Clinton would have brought the people, the key players, together to make things happen.
By now Clinton would have reached out to every one on the planet (even James Cameron) who knew anything about deep sea drilling, BP, big oil, and wetland wildlife and absorbed those competing opinions into the radar of his responses. He would have convened all those Republican Gulf State governors at the White House right away, and in doing so won political points for showing the true meaning of bipartisanship. He would have summoned not just this new BP character, the faceless chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, but the familiar, juicy target, Tony Hayward—if only so the public could see the delinquent CEO ordered like a chastened schoolboy to the principal’s office. He would have convened not just BP but all the other oil companies to force out the best ideas in a fanfared Oval Office meeting. And for sure he would have called James Carville personally and got his yelling fetus-face off CNN.

She provides a great illustration of the problem. Having never been an executive, or even a manager, the President has run into the well-known tension between great ideas about management and actually getting things done. He's experiencing what happens when great ideas come up against the hard work of bringing people along to turn those ideas and visions into reality. It's the difference between being a visionary leader or a merely a visionary.

There's an old saying that comes to mind, experienced managers know its truth. "Management would be easy if it weren't for all the people."


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