Monday, September 19, 2011

Lead a Horse to Water

"Bad leadership equals bad outcomes."

Okay then. I'll accept that for a moment. But it seems to me that it leads to this corollary...

"The sole measure of a leader's competence is their ability to consistently create good outcomes."

Anybody want to be a leader? Anybody? Anybody? (Bueller...?) After all, if you do it correctly, everything will be okay, regardless of the other factors in play. Right?

My point isn't be a cheerleader for President Obama. I'm not impressed, either.

But if we read facile statements like "Bad leadership equals bad outcomes," and then all nod our heads in agreement, we buy into the single most corrosive aspect of the Cult of Leadership - that all we need is the right leader, and everything will be okay - that there is no problem in the world that proper leadership wouldn't have forestalled. But all of the leadership in the world doesn't un-break something if it turns out that it's fundamentally broken.

It doesn't take a degree in finance to realize that we'd set a baseline for our economy that included borrowing a certain amount of the funds that we were spending, and that we couldn't sustain that indefinitely. And the longer you let it go a) the harder it becomes to sustain, b) the more significant the hit when you decide to stop sustaining it or c) the bigger the miracle you need to make it go away without feeling any pain.

Sometimes, all good leadership is capable of is making the best of a bad outcome.

Could the President have done something differently that would have fixed the situation and have been considered worth the cost? Maybe - but certainly not with an Executive Order. This idea that if he'd only have come up with the perfect solution that Democrats and Republicans in Congress would have seen the light and passed it during a chorus of Kumbaya strikes me as suspect, at best.

Yes, the buck stops at the President's desk. But we shouldn't regard that as an invitation to pass it ourselves. It's said that "Nothing is impossible to the person that doesn't have to do it themselves." So, if it's so easy, maybe we should be putting our heads together, rather than waiting for someone else to rescue us.

Because if bad leadership equals bad outcomes, so does willfully following what we have already identified as bad leadership, even if we seek absolution in so doing.


JohnMcG said...

I do have to say that, putting politics aside, that someone as apparently talented as President Obama has been as ineffective as he has been.

I agree that we haven't been coming up with our own ideas, but we haven't exactly been following him, either. We're just doing the same things we've been doing, and then blaming Obama (or whoever's in charge).

In short, I think it's bad followership rather than bad leadership.

Aaron said...

I agree. Perhaps I need to edit the post and make that clearer.