Thursday, February 18, 2010

Barack Obama Lessons in Management

One of the management theories I have is that great managers tend to be people who have gone through rough times and learned from their mistakes before becoming a manager.

Managing is one of the most difficult roles a person can hold. They are pulled in numerous directions with the people below them wanting certain things, peers looking for other things and their bosses expecting a third set of accomplishments. With politicians it is even worse with all kinds of constituents wanting different things from the successful candidate. Without having experienced failure and learned from it, many people in order to dismiss the din of requests, fall back into the position of "I'm the boss and this is what we are going to do." It's too painful to listen so they quit listening.

In looking at the apparent management style of Barack Obama, I see a person who hasn't had to deal with failure in the past. Rather than failure he has been held up by those around him and told how very good and talented he is. And the gift that has gotten him this acclaim is his ability to speak and persuade.

One year into his presidency, BHO finds himself below 50% approval and under heavy fire from both opponents and supporters. Opponents see him as taking the country too far to the left and not listening to their protests, while former supporters find he's not holding true to his liberal principles and feel he's listening too much to the right. He finds himself in the classic managerial conundrum of being pulled in opposite directions. His reaction to this is the one you generally see from someone who has experienced nothing but success. He goes back to do what he got him there, speaking. This past year President Obama (according to CBS News) had 411 speeches comment or remarks including 52 specifically about health care; did 158 interviews; held 42 news conferences; and attended 23 townhalls. As you look at this list you see the classic failure of a new manager, he talked when he should have been listening. And when asked about what the problem with the healthcare proposal was, Obama said (in the SOTU) "I take my share of the blame for not explaining health care.”

So what would have happened if BHO had actually experienced failure earlier in his career? Would it have made a difference?

My thoughts are absolutely. Bill Clinton had lost two elections in his career. When he was declared irrelevant by many after the 1994 elections, he reshaped himself as he had been forced to do when he lost his first bid for congress and his first reelection bid as governor of Arkansas. Clinton looked at the results of 1994 and listened to the voters. He then changed his direction reforming welfare, going along with balancing the budget, and declaring the "era of big government is over."

What we are seeing from this President seems to be an arrogance built on the fact that he has never had to face defeat. To look at himself, his agenda, and listen to what the majority of Americans are saying would mean he would have to admit defeat. Instead he rationalize the problem to be, he hasn't explained his agenda well enough.

And while Bill Clinton was able to regroup, it appears BHO is on the road to being a failed one term president.

An added note: To write this blog, I went to google and put in Obama the manager. What I got were of articles about David Plouffe, the manager of his successful Presidential campaign. There was nothing about BHO being a manager either successfully or unsuccessfully.

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