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T. Owen Jacobs
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T. Owen Jacobs

A military psychologist, T. Owen Jacobs is co-founder and principal of Executive Development Associates, an Oklahoma City-based leadership consultancy.

Do Your Homework the First Time

Timing is everything. If the Big Three chiefs had done this the first time around, it might have made it too difficult for the Congress to say no. However, their first appearance put them at a disadvantage, which critics capably used to make supporting them appear politically risky. (In a similar way, a bumbling Republican bloc brought down the first "bail-out" effort and, in my opinion, provided convincing evidence that a Democratic president should be elected.)

But what could the Big Three Chiefs have done differently? Understanding the enormous complexity of this issue, one wonders why they did not do their homework the first time.

One explanation is that their executive positions confer such enormous prestige and power. Sometimes a leader is not mature enough to realize the power of their rank is not personal power. In such cases, their direct reports will not risk disabusing them, so the illusion of powerfulness gets in the way of foresight - obscuring the need to think through the perspective of those who need to be influenced. Their arrival in Washington on their expensive company jets, however wise from the viewpoint of their valuable time, looked a lot like "business as usual" in a situation that was remarkably unusual.

Years ago, Lee Iacocca took a different approach when he set out to revive Chrysler. He earned -- and successfully used -- public support. In other words, he looked ahead and prepared.

By T. Owen Jacobs

 |  December 8, 2008; 8:00 PM ET
Category:  Economic crisis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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