Thoughts on Obama’s Leadership Qualities

This thought was prompted by an email thread which sought to understand the process and objectives by which Obama will be making his VP pick.

It’s astounding how little we know about Obama’s character as a leader. For all we know, he could be sitting in those meetings letting Eric Holder pull his strings. Or he could be deciding out of insecurity, and will intentionally pick a person of lesser quality than himself. Or, he could be acting like Zod, and will choose capriciously just to keep his people off-balance.

And just as bad, he could be a soft-spoken father-figure who says inspiring things and teaches you stuff, but never makes a tough decision.

I’ve known some entrepreneurs who could well be characterized as inspiring leaders of movements. They can be incredibly effective at getting enterprises off the ground, as Obama has with his campaign. But after a few months you don’t want to be in the same room with them, because they tend to have nasty character flaws that drive everyone crazy, and their day-to-day decision-making is erratic.

If only Obama had served a few years as a dogcatcher or something, somewhere. Then there’d be some data about how the guy runs things. Even Warren Harding had been a newspaper executive. We’re seriously considering electing a man President that has never managed anything in his life.

I’m sure if Obama were here, he’d be talking about how leadership and management are two different things. Yes, they are. The way that Obama understands it, leadership is all about looking good, sounding good, and making as few decisions as possible, otherwise someone might end up not liking you for good reasons.

But management is all about deciding on a strategy (which takes guts) and then getting a lot of not-disinterested people to agree to it and move it forward (which takes experience).

Bill Buckley said that he’d rather be governed by 2000 people chosen at random, than by the faculty of Harvard. He may get his wish. Barack Obama is pretty darned close to a random choice.

-Francis Cianfrocca