No Easy Victories: Obama’s Personal Leadership Style

“Life never was a series of easy victories (not even a series of hard victories). We can’t win every round or arrive at a neat solution to every problem. But driving, creative effort to solve problems is the breath of life, for civilization or an individual.”  John Gardner

Recently, I talked about President Obama’s leadership style in the HCR debate. He delegated authority to the House and Senate and expected reasonable debate to provide a consensus bill. What were the reasons for this approach? Let me speculate on a few:  Was he timid or  naive to assume and trust the Senate and House members would do what was right for the American people ? Miscalculation of the support for HCR in the ranks of the Dems? An overreaction to the process used by Bill Clinton’s attempt to pass HCR? An over estimation that persuasion, olive branches and evidence of need would work to bring Republicans around ? Or just arrogance of the White House about the power and authority of the Presidency? An underestimation of the gullibility of “low information” people like the  Tea Party crowd who seem to believe everything from death panels to government take over by the “right-wing talkers” and obstructionist? Lack of understanding of the power of fear? Or lack of effective leadership, organizing and understanding of the process of a complex change process as defined by Dr.Kurt Lewin, who said the following about the complexity of changing the status quo : ” Unfortunately, some people will genuinely be harmed by change, particularly those who benefit strongly from the status quo. Others may take a long time to recognize the benefits that change brings. You need to foresee and manage these situations.” Continue reading “No Easy Victories: Obama’s Personal Leadership Style”

President Obama arrives as Advocate In Chief

Our advocate has arrived. Finally, there is some listening and action on the needs and expectation of all Americans at the White House—solve our problems and produce results. By being an advocate the President can rebuild trust and credibility with the folks who elected him; ensure positive change by meeting and exceeding constituents expectations and adding value to their “quality of life” not pain; and build an empathic government through listening and acting on priority problems; such as HCR and more jobs… and more Continue reading “President Obama arrives as Advocate In Chief”

Message to President Obama–Let go of Bipartisan Process and Get Results

Satchel Paige: “It’s not what you don’t know that hurts you; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.” 

Psychologist Albert Bandura, the father of Social Learning Theory in 1977, defined self-efficacy as our belief in our ability to succeed in specific situations. The concept of self-efficacy emphasizes the role of observational learning through modeling and social experience in the development of personality.  How does President Obama’s self-efficacy leave him vulnerable to other aggressive non-cooperative politicians? What does he need to learn from recent failures and a just “Say No Congress? How does pandering to the right (8 billion dollars recommended for 2 nuclear plants in Georgia) help establish bi-partisanship?

According to Bandura’s theory, people with high self-efficacy or confidence – that is, those who believe they can perform well – are more likely to view difficult tasks as something to be mastered and not something to be avoided. So he continues to face reluctant law makers who see every proposals and policy initiatives as a chance to defeat him.

Obama’s continued focus on getting along and seeking bipartisanship is misdirected. In the spirit of collaboration and process improvement he is right. Yet in the tough and tumble political atmosphere in Washington,D.C. he is seen by his opponents as weak. It takes an honest partner to create bipartisanship.

Please— Mr. President stop pandering and buying into foolish attempts at bipartisanship. We need results and have a majority in the Senate. Tell Harry Reed to grow “some” and let’s get Change We Can Believe In”.  

President Obama’s First Year Scorecard “C+” –To Improve Focus on Middle-Class/Jobs and Be More Brave and Courageous.

A year ago, the country rallied behind a new president who promised to end the partisanship divide in America. Who many of us thought would be an active problem solver and experimenter like FDR. Who seemed likely to restore leadership and respect for the Presidency with his action orientated problem solving approach and pragmatic political philosophy. He was seen as a “man of the people” during the campaign and now there is some disappointment from his over selling what could be done and our high expectations for constructive change that we could believe in. Little did we think he would have to deal with the party of “No” who voted against ideas and programs they use to believe in; cutting taxes in the stimulus bill. Continue reading “President Obama’s First Year Scorecard “C+” –To Improve Focus on Middle-Class/Jobs and Be More Brave and Courageous.”

Message to President Obama–New Philosophy for Governing.

” It is too late in the day for Democrats to win over Republicans with words, and it is more certain that we can’t win by giving into their cynical and devious plans to defeat any kind of change and reform. What then can we do? “ Call their bluff and start working for and being the Party of the People not Corporate America.”  MWH

Our New Working Philosophy as Relevant Democrats
In our daily governing for the next year we will strive to:

  • Listen to and act on the needs and expectation of all Americans—solve problems and produce results.
  • To ensure change be meeting and exceeding constituents expectations and adding value to their “quality of life” not pain.
  • Live the values of common goals, common values, open and complete communication, trust, commitment, and creating a sense that the government “works” for all Americans not just Corporate America.
  • Build an empathic government through listening and acting on priority problems; such as HCR and more jobs…no matter what the other party wants
  • Create a climate of do no harm by “doing the right things for people” not doing what will just get you re-elected. Live your values and principles by standing up for the people not the bankers and Corporate CEO’s.
  • Rebuild trust and credibility with the folks who elected you and forget oppositional people who just say no.
  • Be brave, bold and courageous… execute and produce results now.
    Continue reading “Message to President Obama–New Philosophy for Governing.”

Daily Reflection: Vaclav Havel–Politics as Morality and Struggle of Change

From the book, Summer Meditations–Vaclav Havel, First Post Communism, President of Czechosovakia, 1989. Known for his play writing and advocatacy for Czech Human Rights movement. 

I present two quotes for your meditation and reflection:

“The only lost cause is the one we give up on before we enter the struggle.”

“My experience and observations confirm that politics as the practice of morality is possible.  I do not deny, however, that it is not always easy to go that route…I want to do everything I can to raise the general civility… I mean chiefly the kind of relations that exisit among people, between the powerful and the weak, the healthy and the sick, the young and the elderly, adults and children, businesspeople and customers, men and women, teachers and students, officers and soldiers, policeman and citzens, and so on… The idea that world might be actually changed by the force of truth, the power of truthful word, the strength of free spirit, conscience and responsibilty–and my longing for justice, decency…for present purposes, I will call “the moral state”..trying to make life more pleasant, more interesting, more varied, and more bearable.”  

Reflection: When will the time come when we do more than just speak these words but actually implement them in action? Maybe we all need to just start with ourselves. I mean in all situations try to think first about others,be kind,respectful,tolerant,non-judgmental and accepting of differences. These small human changes in interacting might get the ball rolling to “ the moral state” based on respect, truth and equality that Havel talks about.

Health Care Reform “People before Profits”–President Obama’s Time is NOW!

” It is to late in the day for the House of Reps to buckle-in on the Public Option or the Senate to kick the can down the road for the States to decide on Health Care Reform.  The “Blue Dog” Democrats and the party of “NO” Republicans are winning by stalling and not caring. I don’t understand their lack of moral conscientious. How can you not care about 144 people/day dying or 44,000/year dying who don’t have health care insurance. Watering down the Public Option is putting the Health Care Reform at risk because if it doesn’t work the President will be scapegoat as the one who failed. These devious plans to defeat Health Care Reform need to be challenged by the Obama team. The Obama team seem to want any bill so they can say they did something. What do I want to see?  Continue reading “Health Care Reform “People before Profits”–President Obama’s Time is NOW!”

Reflection #21: A Model for Leadership– Alan Grayson a Profile in Courage

“Words are like heavy burdens for some. Like rocks or weights on your back. If birds talked they might not fly.” 

President Obama is carrying a heavy burden in trying to live up to his lofty words–Change You can believe in, Yes, we can etc and now the  Nobel Peace Prize adds to the expectations. An example of “high expectations” is Health Care Reform.  His promise during the campaign season on Universal Health has morphed many times during the last nine months.  At first, the talk was about the need and right of all Americans to Health Care through an ambitious and long over due single payer system like “Medicare for All”.  The “Single-payer” idea was thrown under the bus before it was even given a chance, then a public option to provide competition for insurance companies is being attacked by opponents as a government takeover and a Co-Op Health System was too hard to figure out. So, the latest compromise being discussed is to just let the States choose whether to adopt a public option or not. What a mess is created when there is little leadership shown on driving a simple, clear, and consistent message.  As we all know words are cheap, but action and follow-through are hard because it requires courage, risk, and an understandable message delivered over and over again.

Obama and his team seem to be ready to settle for any bill so they can  justify the time and political capital spent on this intractable problem. Maybe they need to reflect on this powerful message from Eric Hoffer, long time change philosopher and longshoremen. Hoffer said: “In human affairs every solution only sharpens the problem, to show us more clearly what we are up against, there are no FINAL SOLUTIONS.”  

President Obama the time for leadership is now. Leaders Serve Period, so no more waiting for others to carry the burden of action. You and your team must step-up, people are dying everyday. The following speech by Alan Grayson, House Rep from Florida, demonstrates the assertive and “profiles in courage” we need. Please Mr. President show this to your team and stop fiddling around. 

Yes, We Can Leadership on Health Care Reform–Where are the “Profiles in Courage”? Where is the Public Rage?

Baucus Plan is not a “profile in courage” but in cowardiness–This so call reform bill being debate and marked-up by the Finance Committee is a waste of time and a joke. This bill is a give away to the Insurance and Big Pharma and a tax on the middle income. What has Baucus been doing all these months? Most of us would have been fired if we were showing such incompetence in our jobs. It appears that he has been negotiating with himself. Continue reading “Yes, We Can Leadership on Health Care Reform–Where are the “Profiles in Courage”? Where is the Public Rage?”

Obama’s Leadership Test– Health Care Reform or Only One Term

” It is to late in the day for Democrats to win over Republicans with words, and it is more certain that we can’t win by giving into their cycnical and devious plans to defeat Health Care reform. What then can we do? ”  Call their bluff.”  MWH  

Take the gloves off–the Republicans don’t care about Health Care Reform. They want Obama to fail in this important Health Care initiative. They want to hand over more customers to Big Pharma  (CO-Op option) and  put the insurance companies between us and our physicians. I am willing to trade the government for the insurance guys and replace over paid executives and excessive profiteering with competent bureaucrats and no profits. I am sure that this is a inalienable right for everyone living in America. The Republicans worship the almighty dollar. The only option they support will be one that keeps money in their pockets They use fear ( death bed and government take over arguments), lie for example Senator Grassly(R) and Backus (D) and Conrad(D) all saying we don’t have the votes for a public option. Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans will say or do anything to block Health Care reform because they have been bought by the Insurance and Pharma lobbyists. 

President  Obama needs to be assertive and get his team aligned on one message.  His willingness to reach out and include Republicans in the development of the Recovery Package shows that he values many points of view and that he still thinks like a Senator. Obviously. there are no easy solutions for the broken Health Care systen in America. Remember we voted for change we can believe in last November now a lot of us are beginning to fear that we elected only an opportunistic and pragmatic President who just wants to put a check next to Health Care bill passed rather than true Health Care Reform. The President says, he needs grasroots help and support for passing Health Care. He will get that support if he just acts on his campaign promises for true Health Care Reform. Building trust starts with good intentions and the ability to be inclusive. Yet he needs a willing partner and it seems like the Republicans are still riding that “one trick pony” no tax increases and sabotage what the American people want. Trust means being vulnerable and taking risks. I for one hope he keeps reaching out to try and build relationships when he has a willing partner in the Senate.  Yet I think the time has come to lay out clearly what he wants and challenge the Republicans and “Blue Dogs” to filabuster the bill he wants.  This action would be leadership we can believe in. He needs to be more assertive and passionate about why we don’t want and can’t afford a Health Care bill without a public option. He must show people his willingness to fight for what is right. His passion would bring new support from all those who voted for him or now need to see him act as a President. It motivates and moblizes people to help with the passage of real Health Care Reform. Time is running out Mr. President and if we don’t win on this battle you may be only a one-term President. Please step up I still believe.  




Warning for President Obama: Watch The Downside of Consensus

“When you win, nothing hurts.” Joe Nameth, Hall of Fame Quarterback for New York Jets

Mr. President–What is your priority —consensus/bipartisanship or achieveing the best Health Care Plan for America’s future ? And when the two are in conflict, which are you going to choose?  I would like to dig a little deeper on the obsessive need for consensus or bipartisan approach of the Obama team. First of all, the administration needs to assess if the group you are negotiating with wants to play fairly in looking for a solution or they just want ot play win-lose politics. Then you need to assess the nature of the problem in relationship to people’s needs and the time to implement changes. Do we need to act immediately or do we have time to build relationships and try to change the minds of our adversaries by presenting evidence-based arguments or creative common sense solutions. Then you try to determine the openness to new approaches, sincerity, needs and goals of the other party. Continue reading “Warning for President Obama: Watch The Downside of Consensus”

Obama’s Achilles Heel

Confidence–thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Of course, it is great to seek consensus and win-win decisions when you have parties in a negotiation that have common interests, respect, and a sense of fair play. It is a truism that a leader needs to be aware of and play to their strengths. President Obama has  many strengths–emotional intelligence, executive presence, inspiring viewpoints, calmness, consensus building, and the ability to organize and motivate others to action. Continue reading “Obama’s Achilles Heel”

Obama’s “Yes We Can” Leadership–Changing D.C. Mindset through Multi-tasking

“Don’t permit fear of failure to prevent effort. We are all imperfect and will fail on occasions, but fear of failure is the greatest failure of all”.  The pundit’s on CNN and MSNBC are worried about how much President Obama is taking on–the economy, health care, education and global climate change. The fact is the President promised change and he is doing what D.C. is not use to being a leader who is a pragmatic experimenter. His style values thoughtful action above more talk, delay, and more talk. His job is to change the way Washington works. In doing this he must help government agencies and Congress dramatically shrink the time it takes to get things done. The “power of focus and action” has been missing for many years in Washington. Continue reading “Obama’s “Yes We Can” Leadership–Changing D.C. Mindset through Multi-tasking”

Obama’s “Yes We Can ” Warp Speed Decision-Making Style

At a time when the economy is melting down, we are fighting two wars,  change is coming at us like a tornado, and the world is so interdependent we need a leader who gets ” it”. What is IT ? Continue reading “Obama’s “Yes We Can ” Warp Speed Decision-Making Style”

Obama’s “Yes We Can” Essence of Change Challenge

 Thirty-five days and the  anger of critics is palpable for President Obama’s economic recovery programs. Cynics abound and yet the decisions being made are more thorough and thoughtful then the alternative “loyal opposition”  do-nothing approach. If you scan some blogs on wordpress,  Fox news or WSJ, you would think our rights have been usurped and Marshall law has been declared, all in the name of Fascism. This heated rhetoric belies the fact that foreclosures are down 25%, technology stocks are holding their own, and in some instances, are thriving, Pharmaceutical companies are successfully floating billion dollar bond offerings.  Change of this magnitude takes time  and patience. Continue reading “Obama’s “Yes We Can” Essence of Change Challenge”

Authentic Communications: Obama Leadership Effect

When we reflect on and look at the way we communicate and speak we are talking about leadership.  Leaders lead with their ideas, insights, words, presence and action. The way people speak and deliver words of praise or criticism reveals their values, beliefs and philosophy of life. It can make or break leaders because without trust there will be no followers“Obama or leadership effect” hypothesizes that leaders will be measured and judged by their empathy, confidence, clarity, authenticity, and the impact of their communications and behavior, not intentions. Leadership is all about connecting, inspiring, and influencing others to come together and take united action.

Like it or not, our self awareness, mental presence, and confidence (mental state); elocution or mechanics (voice, gestures, movement, body language, and eye contact); and messages (verbal impact of content) determine how we are perceived by others and effect our ability to influence them.  Effective leadership and extraordinary communication integrates ideas, insights, and information to inspire and influence others to act on their message. Authentic communication must challenge individuals in profound ways to choose action over words. (Obama Effect)

Lessons Learned from the Obama Communication Style 

  1. Know and go with what you got –Be authentic
  2. Show understanding through empathy asking: “How do you think that would make you feel?” (Obama’s mother always asked him to answer this question when dealing with others)
  3. Do not fear or over react to comments by others–Be true to your values and take the high road when building relationships.
  4. Reflecting on life experiences keeps us grounded and our mental maps updated.
  5. Keep your on eyes on the prize – Have a vision
  6. Replace Yes, but… thinking  with Yes, we can… and positive action will follow.
  7. Keep things in perspective and balance-Take vacations and pay attention to your family needs.
  8. No one is optimistic all the time. But anyone can learn how to adopt a more positive, healthier attitude. When you practice being an optimist, you’ll be on your way to being more confident, relaxed, humorous, and effective as a connector and communicator.
  9. Create “unique connections” by treating others with respect and dignity.  When people feel accepted and respected they have the desire and motivation to collaborate, share information, and work together to accomplish goals.
  10. Provide a common language and powerful theme based on building coalitions and cooperation.  Yes, we can. The focus is providing a vision, strategy, and tactics to support grassroots coalitions in understanding the need for change by building a strong vision for the future and creating trust through open and ongoing communications. 

Finally, one of the most powerful lessons is to be an effective listener by seeking to understand others before being understood. You can do this by using the skills of clarification, restatement, and reflection. This type of authentic and active listening shows your desire to forge a partnership not just impose your ideas. You signal to others your desire to establish yourself as someone who is  open, responsive, and flexible. Your goal in active listening is to create a positive and comfortable environment where participants feel free to confront different points of view because you are confident that listening doesn’t always mean agreement. By being an effective listener you show acceptance –without sacrificing your own style or point of view. To be an extraordinary communicator it is critical that the “message, mechanics, and mental frame” be in-sync through a common language of ideas and information that say, ‘I care and respect you and understand your needs and issues‘.  This approach is vastly different from many leadership approaches that promote “polish and presence” as keys to effective communication. By utilizing The Obama-Leadership Effect ™, leader-communicators can authentically lead in diverse situations and strategically build trust and inspire others to believe in their message and vision. Leaders must find their own voice, so they can connect with followers and present themselves as authentic, inspiring and memorable leaders. Given your experience and perceptions–What do you think makes a leader able to connect and be perceived as authentic?