Leader in Chief

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Kathleen Schafer

A week after the 2012 election that dominated media attention for the past several months, life seems to have returned to normal. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are ensnared in the Fiscal Cliff morass, losing candidates are looking around for someone to blame and once again Washington is mired in a sex scandal. Perhaps we should be comforted by the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same?

Or we could use this moment in time to decide to do things differently, to truly create a better climate where real world results are the measure of achievement and service to all the people is the value. The choice is before our newly elected officials and the one who has the option to change the tone is President Obama. His lead, no pun intended, will set the stage for the next two years and will be largely determinative of the atmosphere that prevails inside the Beltway. So what must President Obama do to become our leader-in-chief? There are three concrete actions President Obama can take to begin to changing the face of Washington:

  • First, let go of partisan dominance as the main goal. President Obama has reached a point in his political career that few people reach—he will serve two terms in the nation’s highest office and will never again stand for election. While there will be considerable pressure for him to use this platform for Democratic gains in the House and Senate, it would be wise, and refreshing, if he would engage in a leadership model that included contributions from across the political spectrum. The Republican Party has proven in this past election cycle that its blind adherence regressive social policies is making it nearly impossible to win a national election, so what is there to fear? By embracing some of the centrist, pragmatic fiscal views and crafting solutions with these in mind, not only would key policies be able to come together with bi-partisan support, it would help all those involved when they stand before voters in the next election.

  • Second, be yourself, be authentic, be real. Elected officials are constantly told how and what to be to achieve success. As they climb the political ladder, the armor becomes thicker and more rigid to the point where those in our highest offices often become so out of touch with who they are, they loose site of passion, dreams and aspirations they led into public service. Obama’s lack luster campaign reeked of this corrosive phenomenon. His first debate performance, which nearly cost him the election, was evidence of a man disconnected from the passion that fueled his initial bid for the presidency. Successful leadership always stems from an individual connected to their unique talents, skills and passion—America has twice voted for him because of these, now is the time to let them shine. As a bonus, the relentless chatter from Fox News insinuating dark, devious motives for the President’s actions, because less effective as the power of who he truly is shines through the dark and baseless accusations.

  • Third, have fun and lighten-up. The aging of an American president is no secret. Entering the stage youthful and exuberant in only a few years the strain of the office is clear on the face and in the graying hair of the office holder. There is no question that the responsibility and demands are enormous and yet, creativity and success are found in the lightness and levity of our days. It is nearly impossible to connect with others and think outside-the-box if meetings are drudgery and filled with animosity. Effective leaders are authentic and then seek genuine connection with those with whom they work; it is from this space that lasting change is seeded and a shift the atmosphere is nourished. Being President is not only a responsibility, it is a privilege, bringing the awe of the potential of the office to create significant change in the lives of millions to his work each day would change the tone in remarkable ways.

People often come to the work of cultivating their leadership as if it is going to be an onerous task. The truth is that becoming an effective leader is not about acquiring more skills or knowledge, it is often about stripping away all the false beliefs that get in the way of quality results. These false beliefs are the ones instilled in us from the people who try to show us how to achieve our desired results and often keep us from doing it, or doing it in a way that is best for us and everyone involved.

President Obama is at the beginning of the end of his political journey. My sincere hope for him and for our country is that this becomes a moment in which he chooses to let go of the chatter of how he is supposed to lead and becomes the leader he truly wants to be. If he chooses the latter, it may be unconventional and in the end I am certain will be better for him and our political system—and it will be a lot more fun for us all. There is nothing that our nation needs more that to lighten up, focus on the positives of what we have and come together to create a bright future for our nation and the world.

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David B. Grinberg

Kathleen: two observations:

1) The leadership — or lack thereof — of the U.S. Congress arguably sets the tone to nearly the same extent as the President. It takes two to Tango. And, as we have seen, an obstructionist, do-nothing Congress — particularly the House — can derail the best laid plans and leadership of a President.

2) Just a footnote here, but the President is not prohibited from seeking future public office after his second term expires. He merely cannot be the POTUS again. Yet, with his relative youth, vigor, and experience, the President may choose to seek another type of national or state elected office, or even to head an international body like the United Nations, for example.

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Kathleen Schafer

Yes, Congress can be a thorn in the side of a President and the power to communicate a clear message directly to Americans, is one of the greatest benefits bestowed on this office (especially in our modern age). If President Obama wants to set a new tone, he has the capacity to move beyond the obstructionist and go to the people, where the real power resides.

And yes, a two-term President can run for other offices and thankfully, for everyone, they tend not to!

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