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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.

No Prize for Norwegians

Should there be a Nobel prize for leadership? There are abundant awards for business leaders and Nobel prizes for exceptional knowledge leaders in the sciences and economics. The Nobel Peace prize should be given to someone who has led people to peace, but by selecting Barack Obama, the Norwegian committee has not done this.

Although Obama has sparked hope throughout the world for \understanding and collaboration among nations, he is currently leading a war in Afghanistan and his visionary agenda is provoking political conflict at home. If the Norwegians meant to bolster his ability to change the world for the better, I doubt they have succeeded. The prize has not endeared Obama to his enemies and has worried many of his supporters that he will be ridiculed as not having done enough.

Let us hope that someday Obama will have truly merited his prize. However, right now I would not give the Norwegians an award for prize giving.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  October 14, 2009; 5:16 AM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Mr. Maccoby,

I agree with your general conclusion that the choice of our president is worth great debate and that Mr. Obama's receipt of the prize may 1) embolden his enemies, 2) raise already enormous hopes for his Presidency.

However, I must respectfully distinguish between his leadership (which I believe the Norwegians were recognizing) and the context he adopted.

1) The war in Afghanistan is neither promoted by nor was it started by Mr. Obama. His constant deliberations on the topic, careful weight of costs, national security threats, and potentially unintended long-term consequences is a testament to his leadership skills that sharply contrasts him from his predecessor.

2) Regarding political conflict at home -- I am unsure of Presidential history in all of its nuance, but I'm fairly sure no sitting US President has both led from a vision of change and prevented political conflict. Our extraordinary system demands checks and balances in order to prevent wholesale change without representation of myriad interests. Our President's moral courage in pushing for a better common good and his willingness to try to mediate partisan conflicts is the better reflection of the man rather than the realities of his position.

In sum, though we probably agree that Mr. Obama's selection may be pre-mature and more problematic than helpful to his agenda, the reasons you offer to detract from Mr. Obama's merits are fallacious. They do not look at the process he personally undertakes in a context that he adopted from his predecessor. If you wish to degrade his leadership, his potential short-sightedness in amassing unprecedented levels of government debt may have been a wiser starting point.


Posted by: thinker123 | October 17, 2009 12:24 PM
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