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Katherine Tyler Scott
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Katherine Tyler Scott

Katherine Tyler Scott is Managing Partner of Ki ThoughtBridge, a leadership consultancy, and is author, most recently, of Transforming Leadership: The Episcopal Church of the 21st Century. She is a board member of the International Leadership Association.

Delivering us from anxiety

The biggest challenge President Obama has had to face in his first year is not Iraq, Afghanistan, the economic disaster, a huge federal deficit, or the need for adequate health care of America citizens. He inherited all of the above problems, but the most troubling inheritance is the fragile trust Americans have in their government and political leaders. The erosion of trust has led to cynicism, doubt, frustration, fear, and anxiety; rebuilding trust is always more difficult and time consuming than maintaining it.

Any reasonable citizen knows that the litany of problems that lay on the president's desk--awaiting the end of the wonderful celebration, pomp and circumstance that thrilled most of us--cannot be solved in one year, or even four years. They are interminably complex issues affected by the political overlay of extreme divisiveness, and the media's penchant for reducing them into sound bytes that can be easily ingested.

Knowledgeable and responsible citizens know we are a democracy not a dictatorship. The three branches of government make and affect policy in a swirling milieu of special interests groups and public opinion.

Any evaluation of President Obama needs to start with an accurate reading of the reality he entered into a year ago. His strength over the past 12 months has been his non-anxious presence--an ability that is so essential to leadership in tumultuous times like these. The calm, reasoned, informed and respectful way that President Obama approaches the myriad of problems facing the nation is impressive. It is not normative leadership behavior to a citizenry that wants immediate results and has so little faith in the government's ability to look out for its best interests. This leadership strength is not appreciated by those who feel overwhelmed by anxiety and fear and want relief no matter the long-term cost to them or the country.

Perhaps more attention needed to have been paid to the emotional and psychological responses that people have to transformational change. The president's chief responsibility in the future will have to include rebuilding trust and re-establishing connections with the American people in ways that will enable them to endure difficult times and not be seduced by cosmetic solutions. Perhaps this will enable us to understand that change is not an event; it is a process that requires considerable time. If this is not part of the president's agenda, more than mid-term election results will be at stake. We will be at risk of losing the capacity to transform ourselves and our government to do what is right--to effect change for the common good, a greater good than self interest and immediate gratification.

By Katherine Tyler Scott

 |  January 20, 2010; 8:07 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Limits of a silver tongue | Next: Underplaying his own passions


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"The calm, reasoned, informed and respectful way that President Obama approaches the myriad of problems facing the nation is impressive."

I saw calm, reasoned, informed, and respectful in CANDIDATE Obama. I have not, however, seen it in PRESIDENT Obama. I've seen the same "Pass my bill NOW NOW NOW" and "No questions ever or you're stupid and a party traitor" hysteria in the Obama administration that I despised during the Bush administration. There has been no change.

Obama is not "delivering" us from anxiety. He's perpetuating it. And I wish to God that he'd stop.

Posted by: treen | January 20, 2010 11:07 PM
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Brief and to the point - Job Creation. It will reduce anxiety in 10 to 17% of Americans (depends on the number you trust), increase revenues/tax payments for various programs and rebuild trust in government.

President Obamas' been in office a year, and has the power of the "bully pulpit". He is an articulate speaker (unlike SOME Chief Exectutives I could name), and, at least when he was campaigning, had a vision for America. So let him restore trust, using the transparency he mentioned as a candidate. Let him state his goals and how we, the people, can help him accomplish those goals. If he acts like a Chicago Pol, and huddles with his cronys in back rooms, passes out "sweeteners", then announces a done deal that conflicts with his prior promises - well, why be surprised if there is criticism and a sense of betrayal?

Posted by: shadowmagician | January 20, 2010 6:00 PM
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it not soo much anxiety, but recurring, intentional or not, is in the centre. If only FEDS had acted thro' the chain command, the system would have of worked.Americans placed faith in the hands of TSA- no-ordination, right hand does not see the left hand. This is lack of trust among the agencies, besides giving up their indepence.Americans are not naive, but hoping on HOPE, they left their constitutional rights with out protest

Posted by: jayrkay | January 20, 2010 5:15 PM
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I don't agree with the I can't fix it in a year crap...
it may be true but at least start making changes, small growing to large...
he can cancel the foreign labour visas and send those here now on these visas home...
you may not agree with it but perception is everything in America and in American politics...
he can show he backs American workers instead of foreign workers, but I guess when you think you are king of the world...
you can't do that...
and that is why he will fail...

Posted by: DwightCollins | January 20, 2010 2:45 PM
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Mr Obama's style of leadership is a slow and methodical approach to problems, with a lot of thought going into a problem before a decision is made.
We have not seen this style for many, many years; and are not quite used to it yet.
It is only his 1st year, lets give him some more time before we rush to any kind of a conclusion about his leadership style.

Posted by: JimW2 | January 20, 2010 2:39 PM
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