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Mickey Edwards
Political leader

Mickey Edwards

Former U.S. Congressman, Mickey Edwards is vice president of the Aspen Institute, where he directs the Institute's Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership.

Intelligent Resolve

Ah, the hobgoblin of foolish consistency.

How does a leader continue to look like a leader while changing directions? Two things are important. First, he or she must make the new decision based on a reassessment of the circumstances in the form of either (a) the discovery of more information, which, had it been known, would have altered the original decision, or (b) a change in the situation on the ground that necessitates a re-evaluation of costs and benefits.

It's important, however, that the change in strategies or actions be a result of applying consistent goals and values to a changed situation, not a change in goals or values, which would destroy a leader's credibility pretty quickly. Second, in keeping with the first point, a good leader must explain with patience and clarity the reasons for the change; the public will not follow an uncertain leader, but will follow a leader who knows what he or she seeks to achieve and yet is thoughtful in evaluating the circumstances at hand. That requires good, prompt, honest communication to avoid misinterpreting either resolve or competence.

By Mickey Edwards

 |  September 22, 2009; 6:14 AM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"...the public will not follow an uncertain leader"

They frequently won't follow a certain leader, either. And with some reason. Like that study on the accuracy of political predictions -- they aren't, with one exception: the more bold and definitive the prediction, the less likely to come true.

Posted by: Samson151 | September 22, 2009 11:40 AM
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