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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Negative Incentives Needed

In both corporations and the civil service, leaders enjoy built-in incentives--hopes of raises, bonuses, promotions and fears of losing rewards and even being fired--to motivate subordinates to follow their commands. Unless employees don't care about losing their jobs, there is always an undercurrent of fear in the boss-subordinate relationship. However, rather than motivating with fear, good managers try to drive out some but not all of that fear so the people they lead will feel it's safe to voice constructive criticisms, offer new ideas, and learn from their mistakes rather than trying to hide them.

Presidents have some of these motivational tools to use with the executive branch, but not with Congress. To get controversial legislation passed, a president may find that some members of Congress in his own party hesitate to support him, because they are more afraid of alienating the voters they need to elect them than they are of him.

When Jimmy Carter was in the White House, a Democratic senator complained to me that Carter was not getting his policies passed because he was too soft. He imposed no consequences for those senators who ignored his requests so they were not afraid of crossing him.

A president may need to use all the incentives he has, including promises of support in their campaigns, appointments they seek for themselves or constituents and appropriations to their states and districts, as well as threats to withhold support or favor their primary challengers, to persuade some congressmen and women to vote for legislation when otherwise they would not do so.

George W. Bush used both threats and bribes to gain votes for the Medicare drug benefit from disapproving conservative Republicans. The Obama team should now be at work charting what incentives, positive and negative, they can use with Democrats who are on the fence about voting for health-care reform. And the president should be prepared to use these promises and threats if that is necessary to get health care legislation enacted.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  August 18, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Big Business owns Congress - That's just the way it is...

The only thing MOST members of congress are concerned about is collecting enough lobby money for future elections...


Posted by: WVUWEIRTON | August 18, 2009 1:12 PM
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In each piece of legislation there will be some people who are unhappy and some people who are down right indignant. When legislation is good for the majority of American people the President needs to manipulate congress to pass it. Most Americans are extremely ignorant of legislation in congress and don't really care to educate themselves. The Founding Fathers are turning over in their graves with the ineptness of our population. These idiots are going to really be complaining when no legislation is passed. Hopefully when it comes up again, the insurance companies will be the brunt of the criminal behavior they next time around.

Posted by: rmichael67 | August 18, 2009 12:29 PM
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