Sunday, October 12, 2014

Obama and Leadership

While Mr. Obama rarely speaks about it, the effects of race, real or imagined, on his presidency are on the minds of black and white voters, who repeatedly brought up the issue as an explanation of why he has faced such opposition.

Ashley Parker, “From Mid-Atlantic to Midwest, Voters Exude Frustration and Fatigue,” New York Times, October 12, 2014

Why is President Obama failing as a leader? Why does the Washington Post election model predict a 95% chance the GOP will win the Senate? Is the Tea Party rise due to white conservative bigots? Does this failure, as manifested by a slow economic recovery, bitter partisanship, and recent racial turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri, occur because President Obama is black?

Is Denise Carter, a black restaurant hostess in Springfield, Illinois, right when she says,” A lot of people do not like taking command from a black man. That’s all there is to it.”

I don't think so. There's more to it than Obama being black. I say this even though I was raised and educated in the South, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The U.S. voted for President Obama not once but twice, Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest women on Earth, black faces are everywhere on the visual media. Black athletes are heroes to millions of white fans. Black white couples dance the tango on Dancing with the Stars. We have a black Senator from South Carolina. A black physician from Baltimore who has announced he will run for President as a Republican. We are a tolerant, and increasingly color-blind, nation.

Obama’s leadership problems are more complicated than his being black.

I have on my desk a copy of a book On Leadership: Essential Principles for Business, Political, and Personal Success (SkyHorse Publishing, 2011).

Its author is Donald J. Palmisano. M.D. – lawyer, surgeon, and former AMA president. he is a Southerner from Louisiana, but this does not color his views.

On page 23, Palmisano lists these attributes of a leader.

A true leader:

1. does the necessary “homework.”

2. demonstrates courage.

3. is persistent.

4. fully understands both the mission and the goal.

5. has integrity; is ethical.

6. does not fail to act in absence of instructions , unexpected crisis, or desired data on which to base decisions.

7. Is a good listener and an effective communicator.

8. understand that unity leads to success and division leads to failure.

9. leads “from the front.”

10. inspires others and engages them using his or her passion and authentic behavior.

11. never asks others to take risks that he or she would not take.

12. does not get rattled in a crisis.

13. seeks opportunities to advance the mission.

14. knows how to identify those who are sincere in interpersonal relationships.

15. is trustworthy and learns quickly whom to trust.

16. is dependable , adhering to a company’s or a movement’s mission without compromising principles for personal enrichment or benefit.

17. becomes a loyal follower and supporter of other leaders once they are identified.

18. recognizes that leadership is not an ego trip.

Palmisano concludes “The cornerstones of success are homework, courage, and persistence, but leadership requires that and more: integrity, decisiveness, communication and inspiration, to name only a few.”

President Obama has failed as a leader because of his failure to fulfill many of these criteria, not because he is black. Obama’s problems stem from his failure to do his homework, to ignore critics and Congress, to renege on promises to keep your doctor and health plan, to waffling and changing ObamaCare 37 times for purely political reasons, shifting of blame to others instead of assuming personal responsibility when his policies go wrong, leadership “from the back” on foreign affairs, narcissism, and failure to learn to trust the judgment of the American people who believe the government that governs least governs best.

Or maybe, just maybe, we are expecting too much of a president, black or white. Aaron David Miller, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, an adviser to several Secretaries of State, writes in "Barack Obama, Disppointer in Chief,"All presidents disappoint. It comes with the job, the unreasonable expectations Americans have for their presidents, and the inherent conflict and disconnect between campaigning (promising people all they can have) and governing (explaining to people why they won’t get it." (Washington Post, October 10, 2014)

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