On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Ed Ruggero
Author/Speaker

Ed Ruggero

Ed Ruggero, author most recently of The First Men In, helps organizations develop the kinds of leaders people want to follow. His Gettysburg Leadership Experience teaches battle-tested leadership lessons that endure today.

The Political Disciplinarian

In his best-known work, The Prince, the political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli famously poses the question whether it is better for a leader to be feared or loved.

Like a politician who doesn't want to be pinned down, he first opines: "One should wish to be both." Later in the same paragraph he gets off the fence, writing, "because it is difficult to unite [being feared and being loved] in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved." Generations of tyrants have found justification in the pages of The Prince by ignoring the more subtle arguments Machiavelli makes later in the same chapter.

The modern, homespun metaphor of the "carrot and the stick" is more apt for leaders because it implies that the leader use both in the right balance and combination. The first, obvious question is: How much of each? The not-so-obvious pitfall, the trap many leaders unwittingly fall into is that they are inconsistent in their application of either punishment or reward. Inconsistency is, perhaps, an even greater sin than being too heavy-handed or too lenient. Most people would prefer to follow someone who hands out rewards and punishments in a predictable fashion.

There is another aspect of the carrot-and-stick algorithm, and that is: Where does the leader wield the stick? Some members of the president's party are wavering in their support of Obama's health-care reform plans. It is highly likely that any offer of a carrot or threat of a stick among his own party members is going to take place out of the public view. Everyone gets to save face when the trip to the proverbial woodshed is a private affair. And if someone is disciplined, word will get out to those politicians who need a little preemptive warning about staying in line.

When it comes to analyzing the president as political disciplinarian, one thing seems clear: There will be at least as much political horse-trading going on out of the public view as takes place in open forum. And while we'll be able to judge the success of this particular program in not too many months, the president's long-term effectiveness with the carrot and stick won't be entirely clear until historians are poring over the record years from now. As with most relationships between leader and led, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

By Ed Ruggero

 |  August 18, 2009; 11:56 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Even Pickett's Charge | Next: Utter Nonsense

Comments

Please report offensive comments below.



The people just don't seem to like or trust Obama, as his "Nice guy con game " is peeling away.
Sometimes the NPD sociopathic dual profile just runs out of places to hide, and run his schtick.
Hitler did.

Posted by: dottydo | August 18, 2009 7:49 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company