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Ed O'Malley

Ed O'Malley

A former state legislator and gubernatorial aide, Ed O’Malley is President and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center, a first-of-its-kind training center charged with fostering large-scale civic leadership for healthier communities. He tweets at eomalley.

One step ahead

Here is some simple math you won't need the Congressional Budget Office's help in figuring out. If you take two steps forward and then one step back, you still end up a step ahead. Politicians know you are rarely granted the two steps at the same time. Everything is a negotiation, by design of our founders. Knowing what is essential and what is dispensable is a critical precursor to leadership. Foolishly holding on to all your idealistic positions is a perfect recipe for taking no steps forward at all.

Successful leadership in politics, like life, is often determined by your ability to balance pragmatism, idealism and egotism. Watch out if any one of the three gets out of whack. Too much pragmatism and you become cold, hard and overly calculating. An excess of idealism leads to passionate zealotry pathetically incompetent at actual progress. Too much ego clouds your focus on the issue you care about when personal attacks -- so often a part of any effort to lead change -- begin to fly.

But here is the challenge: Pragmatic compromise undermines your authority and effectiveness when you sacrifice things, in the name of progress, that key factions supporting you value more than the thing you are pushing. Or the culminations of small things you sacrifice begin to send a message that you really have no core values at all. It is a leadership skill to know what you can give up and what you must hold to retain your authority and effectiveness.

Much like the real "two-step," leadership is a dance that takes you forward and backward. And, just like the best dancers, those effective at exercising leadership know it is an experimental and improvisatory art that demands a willingness to change direction, so long as you are still advancing your purpose.

By Ed O'Malley

 |  November 10, 2009; 5:59 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Excellent points here Ed. Thanks for the info!

Posted by: cdub111 | November 16, 2009 2:20 PM
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