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Marty Linsky
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Marty Linsky

Co-founder of the leadership-focused consulting firm, Cambridge Leadership Associates, Marty Linsky teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-authors the advice column, Leadership House Call and blogs at Linsky on Leadership .

When "Good Soldier" Is Impossible

There is no such thing as as being a good soldier in a number-two role when there is deep and fundamental differences about core values and purposes, as previous Israeli governments have shown and as Judd Gregg also recently reminded us.

Only people with no principled core or whose core is only about power -- see Mitt Romney perhaps -- could make that work.

Distinguish a Netanyahu/Livni government from Kathleen Sebelius, the Democratic Governor of Kansas, who twice persuaded moderate Republicans to be her running mate. That worked out well, because there were no deep divisions between them. A McCain/Lieberman Administration would have been similar. When Lincoln persuaded some of his rivals to join his Cabinet, what was key was that they did not appear to have core differences on important issues. And when fissures did eventually arise -- on issues that they all cared about -- the team of rivals fell apart.

Livni joining a Netanyahu government would not be the same as Hillary becoming Secretary of State, because as we found out during the presidential campaign, Obama and Clinton really do not disagree too greatly on anything that is considered important to either of them or the country.

Distinguish line from staff. Staff is where loyal dissent is a critical resource and a valuable behavior. Forming a unity government among politicians is very different than bringing multiple and conflicting voices into a staff role. Netanyahu needs a Livni perspective in his personal inner circle or kitchen cabinet to challenge him. We have just witnessed eight years of the U.S. government where internal dissent was not tolerated. Colin Powell would have been more effective and would have served the country better if he had quit as soon as he knew he was being duped and marginalized.

The construct with a loyal staff dissenter is that you get to argue your case forcefully all the time, but once a decision is made, you either salute or leave. No way will Livni be able to salute to the Netanyahu strategy on the biggest challenge facing her country. She can serve her country best by being outside and challenging him publicly, holding him accountable, and keeping alternatives in front of the Israeli people.

By Marty Linsky

 |  February 23, 2009; 10:04 AM ET
Category:  Followership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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