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Howard Gardner
Scholar

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.

'Rahm-ing' It Through

It all depends on the "mental models" held by the leader and those who are in the position to cooperate or follow, or not (hereafter, for short, called "followers.") Since the time of Machiavelli, we have had a detailed argument about why leaders should be feared, and indeed, when both leader and followers share that mental model, that is how to get things done. But there are other models of leadership as well, and when more consensual (in your terms), more-"carrot" approaches constitute the mental models, those can work well. Newt Gingrich and Tip O'Neill were effective in different ways; so were Lyndon Johnson and Mike Mansfield.

I think that President Obama has inherited a situation in which his gentler approach is interpreted by some as weakness. With respect to those individuals, he has a choice: He can resort to more of a Machiavelli '"stick" approach (and "rahm" things down the throat), or he can attempt to educate or inspire followers (associates, Congress members, and the general public) to a different model of how to do business. I hope that he chooses the latter course.

By Howard Gardner

 |  August 18, 2009; 12:44 PM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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President Obama probably genuinely believes his gentleness should be stronger, but he's also an introvert, which means he is at a disadvantage when it comes to combining carrots and sticks the way Lyndon Johnson did. An extroverted Obama would invite the Gang of Six into the Oval Office, lock the doors (even keeping Rahmbo out), and just let the bourbon and tears flow freely until he gets what he wants and the country needs: a workable, fully financed single-payer healthcare system. Is he smart enough to do this?

Posted by: corbinbrooks | August 18, 2009 3:39 PM
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