Monday, April 20, 2009

America, the home of the _____

Fill in the blank. Brave, right?

Thought so. Which is why I find it so curious that Newt Gingrich asserted that Obama's magnanimity toward Hugo Chavez as a "terrible signal" and "dangerous." Newt, who has floated 99 trial balloons that he's thinking of running for President in 2012, oddly is showing how fearful he is of Chavez's ability to use Obama's graciousness as propaganda to advance his presence in the region. Conversely, by demonstrating cordiality, Obama is demonstrating that he is anything but intimidated by a small-time political player.

Somehow, someway, Newt and his conservative colleagues on the Right still subscribe to the notion that being gracious, magnanimous and bigger than our foes is a bad idea. Conservatives still grasp onto the notion that we ought to lower ourselves down to the level of a petty dictator, where we should use whatever power we have to assert our control, and to clearly define our allies and enemies to make sure that we're seen as being tough -- like a bully who puts up a front to protect himself from his inner weakness.

Yes, Newt and what's left of the Republican party want us to continue to act like a little dictator, while Obama wants us to act like the superpower we are.

It's stunning how far the Republicans have been led down this dead-end path of being so small on the global stage. Republicans from the 60s through the 90s were never like this. They were much more the adults of the world, rising above pettiness, and being bigger than our allies and our foes. Not any longer; the Republicans have apparently ceded this diplomatic high-ground to the Democrats -- and particularly to Obama, who is more like a old-style Republican in his foreign policy than any Democrat would like to admit.

What Newt and friends have yet to figure out is that if they continue to play devil's advocate to everything Obama does well, they're simply going to be representing how to do things poorly. That's just not a very solid platform from which to build an opposition movement.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Are Republicans becoming disgruntled employees?

Karl Rove gleefully tweeted about Jackson Diehl's Washington Post column, which echoes the Republican rhetoric that being accommodating somehow needs to come at the exclusion of being a leader.

It should not be a surprise that Republicans believe that empathy is weak, and being obstinate is strong and leadership-y. Unfortunately, this is a hollowed shell of what real, effective leadership is.

Much new research in leadership and organizational dynamics points to the exact opposite of what conservatives believe work in terms of leadership style. Merely being "tough" and "strong" to the exclusion of listening, mapping and demonstrating compassion have proven be ineffective.

In fact, servant leadership is proving to be one of the more effective ways to maximize human capital over the long term. Sure, push-rod, top-down, authoritarian leadership can work in the short-term, but I think most of us would agree that America's playing this game for the long term.

There appears to be a fundamental difference between conservative and progressive leadership philosophies. Ironically, the executive class in America is more likely to understand the benefits of positive, servant leadership, even though they are mostly Republicans. Read a few books on the nation's top CEOs. You'll quickly learn that the best of the best have strong visions for the future, but also understand that listening and compromising are absolutely critical to achieving that vision. No modern CEO has ever succeeded over the long-term by "going it alone" and dragging his constituents with him with tough talk. Think about it: as a CEO, do you want to infuriate your vendors (i.e., allies), or create win-win scenarios with them?

Obama's approach to our allies and other nations so far represents what the best business leaders in the world practice in their own organizations. Like any CEO, we'll see how effective his leadership is after his plans and strategies are given time to make an impact. The Republican outrage every step of the way ends up being similar to the disgruntled employee who doesn't like the new CEO. And we all know how effective and valuable disgruntled employees are.