First Measure of Success
Over the holiday break I listened to the audiobook, The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter and bought the hardcover version to read in detail.
Alter's account of the U.S. financial crisis of 1932-33 described the expectations placed on the newly-elected President Roosevelt to "fix it" quickly. The agenda that president set within the first 100 days in office has been held under great scrutiny--then and now. FDR was given a lot of leeway by Congress and the American people to take action--any action--that might work to address the problems faced by the country.
Charismatic, a builder of teams, and an intuitive leader, FDR had great power and was virtually unchallengeable when the nation was in crisis. Some have noted similar characteristics of President Obama, and the world is watching to see just how he measures up to these expectations. Will he succeed in establishing a vision, like FDR, and then leading the nation through these turbulent times?
My historian friends and colleagues have cautioned me about drawing too many parallels with financial crises 75 years distant. But while the specifics in these situations may differ, I see enduring themes about senior leadership responsibilities. Then as now, a leader must find common ground upon which emerges a shared vision, communicate clearly and draw commitment of others to goals and values, and persevere in the face of adversity.
What is clear is that President Obama faces enormous challenges. We as citizens hope that the team that he assembles will be able to work with Congress and our international partners to address the myriad of problems. That will be the first measure of success.
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