Nominee: White House Usher
Our society applauds capital-L leaders appearing on the political or corporate stage, people visible because of their sheer power or economic clout. But we do a lousy job of recognizing people engaged in the real work of leadership: building organizations, developing people, motivating teams, working in the "whitespace" between bureaucratic lines, laboring relentlessly -- and often thanklessly -- for a greater good.
There should be a Nobel Prize for leadership, and it should go to the best "servant leader" we can find. My nomination: the White House Chief Usher, Rear Admiral Stephen W. Rochon.
Never heard of the Chief Usher? I hadn't either, but he's the guy charged with "effective operation of the White House Complex," in all of its complexity. He's essentially the COO of the presidential machine. When important negotiations run all night in the West Wing, he's the unsung man behind the scenes pulling all the logistics together so the people at that negotiations table can fully focus on their jobs. He works across dozens of formal organizations to bring one integrated, high-performing team to bear on the problem: pulling together protocol experts from the Department of State, the Secret Service agents, and the guys working in the kitchen. At 1600 Pennsylvania, the buck stops with Mr. Rochon. And the job is apolitical, as the Usher works for the White House, not for Mr Obama.
Let me add here that Mr Rochon served in the Coast Guard for 30 years, coordinated Coast Guard disaster response after Katrina, and in his spare time helps rebuild historic Louisiana homes damaged by that hurricane.
If we want an example of what leaders really do, I suggest we start with this one.
Posted by: amywilkinson | October 15, 2009 10:14 PM
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