In praise of steadiness
Two of Obama's strongest assets in leadership have come into focus in the last few weeks.
The first is what I learned (and try to emulate) from one of my early mentors: a recipe for successful leadership is to keep the intensity down. President Obama's adherence to this advice has been evident throughout his career in office, and it is what I think makes him a successful leader, one year into his administration.
The president's response after the failed December bombing attempt may not have been as "sure footed" as the pundits were calling for, but he's a master of not unnecessarily raising the anxiety level. More has come out about the failures of coordination between our intelligence agencies, that information has been steadily passed on with transparency to the public. But the time he has taken, while he has been criticized for it, has actually helped avert panic by keeping the intensity down. Is he intense? YES, and his communication to his staff about the failures in coordination have been rightfully intense....but that intensity has not been passed on in some contagion of anxiety to an already anxious public.
The second is what one of his closest allies told me during the 2008 presidential campaign, when her own financial firm was dealing with the financial crisis: "I come in every day and think how would (then candidate) Obama handle this?" While other campaigns just took a scrubbing, it seems there really was a commitment to "no drama" and to the ways people were to be treated that, for instance, has saved him from being savaged by the book that has had everyone talking, "Game Change."
Commitment to keeping an even keel is what gives a neophyte leader gravitas, and in an ideal world, time and space to earn trust. In his first year, President Obama has had neither of those luxuries, his first 365 days have been fast and furious. But what we need right now is exactly what he has always given us: no highs, no lows, just steady as she goes.
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