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.