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Alan M. Webber

Alan M. Webber

Alan Webber, a founding editor of Fast Company magazine, is an award-winning editor, author, and columnist. His most recent book is Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself.

His economic task

The right-wingers hate him for being a socialist, the liberals are angry because he's not. He stepped into an economy that many predicted could melt down into a global Great Depression; now we're merely experiencing prolonged economic stagnation and massive unemployment. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and promptly announced his intention to send more troops to Afghanistan. In many ways, President Obama's first year in office is a leadership textbook: his strengths and weaknesses are interchangeable.

He is, as football coaches always say about their own teams, what he is. Which means the attributes that got him elected are the same ones he's using to govern, as hard and frustrating as governing is. He is smart and analytical; he is patient and genuinely interested in making change happen. He is a serious-minded manager who holds people accountable for their performance. He is rarely flashy and even more rarely departs from the script. He appears to be a good listener.

These are all strengths, and, in some circumstances, also weaknesses, just as we, the folks who elected him and the others who represent us in Washington, D.C., have strengths and weaknesses, and they are often the same qualities. We want to be believe and yet we expect to be disappointed. We think America is a special place and still comment all the time about her shortcomings. We want each generation to have a better life with more opportunities, but seem less inclined to make the sacrifices required to make that happen.

What happens next? It's the economy, stupid. Job growth needs to kick in, economic growth needs to resume. Can a president--any president--actually make that happen? Reality and experience say no. Hope and expectations say yes. Year two of the Obama Administration will continue the tension between dichotomy and synthesis.

By Alan M. Webber

 |  January 19, 2010; 5:54 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Our country has bogged down. It used to embrace change and innovation. Now it suffers from an obsession with maintaining the status quo, playing it safe. If any change is welcomed, it is only the smallest incremental change. e.g healthcare reform. Much of this is the result of electorate's prosperity and resulting laziness and powerful, entrenched special interests. Many of us are looking for leaders both on the right and the left who can get the country moving again by helping bring back a desire for innovation and experimentation. Obama could have filled this role, but he seems more wedded to a don't-rock-the-boat, mildly left, technocratic incrementalism that will please no one. No bold vision, just pragmatism. Playing it safe may work, but nothing grand will get done, and his reelection will be a cliff hanger.

Posted by: alonzoQuijana | January 19, 2010 11:29 AM
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