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Slade Gorton
Political leader

Slade Gorton

A former U.S. Senator and Washington State Attorney General, Slade Gorton served on the 9/11 Commission.

The Difficult Road

It is far better to have a president (or a CEO) who is willing to admit a mistake and change direction than to stubbornly continue on a failed course. It is, however, much easier for the CEO, who must answer only to a small board and to shareholders, and whose failures are plain to see in his company's stock prices.

A president's policies are not only far more public, but are usually more ideological in nature and often result from campaign promises. In addition, of course, it is far more difficult to judge whether these policies are in fact failures. They also retain large constituencies to a far greater extent than do losing corporate strategies. Moreover, the secondary and unintended consequences are almost certain to be profound. In Afghanistan, for example, they are likely to include encouraging an immense increase in terrorist recruitment, a major loss in U.S. prestige, and a loss of confidence in American resolve on the part of our friends. It is far more likely that the net losses will be greater than the short-term gains in the international realm than such a reversal would be in the corporate world.

Nevertheless, if a policy is not working and will not work, a president, like a CEO, must act decisively, explain his decision clearly and move on. Few have ever been willing to do so.

By Slade Gorton

 |  September 22, 2009; 6:32 AM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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One of the things about leadership studies that has always baffled me is the assumption that most CEOs are good leaders. That's like assuming that all the books in the bookstore were written by smart people. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

Having spent years watching CEOs in action, I've concluded that the two essential skills for advancement in modern government or corporate cultures are 1) the ability to take credit for success, and 2) the ability to shift blame for failure. So when we had the CEOs of major corporations and institutions testifying before senior members of Congress, it's likely we were in the presence of the very best in the world at those two skill sets.

But I suppose it would be difficult for somebody who billed himself as a consultant on leadership to agree with my views.

True though they may be...

Posted by: Samson151 | September 22, 2009 11:20 AM
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