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Coro Fellows

As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

The ventriloquist and the dummy

When the room darkens, and the spotlight envelops the ventriloquist, we agree to suspend our disbelief. In those delicate moments, as the puppet comes to life, it's imbued by a voice and mind seemingly all its own. The ventriloquist, meanwhile, eases between his natural voice and the contrived expressions of his puppet. After all, he's really in control. Behind the thinly veiled trick, the puppet has no voice. Yet we laugh because, while the lights are dimmed, it's perfectly acceptable to watch one persons voice be channeled through another.

A self-aware leader continually searches for, and uses, his own voice. In the midst of the swirling ideas and opinions of those around him, he listens, acknowledges, and then translates into his own understanding. Without that self-consciousness, a leader loses his essence and simply mirrors the characteristics of the loudest voices in his circle. He ceases being a filter for productive ideas and instead becomes a channel, courteously forwarding the views of his advisors. Good leaders keep their voice at the core of their actions, regardless of what influences affect them. They are both ventriloquist and puppet. --Lanre Akinsiku


George Washington's vision

Leaders, not advisors, will be judged and held accountable the decisions they make. In Karl Rove's recent memoir, he discussed his place in the Bush legacy. He was a critical member of the administration, but he was not the figure chosen to make the final decisions. That line is what separates leaders and advisors. By understanding their power of choice, leaders can draw the line between guidance and dependency by standing firm to a set of principles that can guide their decisions.

Having capable advisors is by no means a detriment to a leader. The idea of a presidential cabinet was born out of George Washington's understanding of his ability to create a team of highly capable individuals who could assist him as president. Good leaders do not have to be the most knowledgeable or skilled in their field. While those talents are valuable, their main role is to mobilize and motivate.

Infused in this role is the accountability of decision making. When General MacArthur demanded to expand the Korean War, the ultimate decision on such matters was not in his hands, but Truman's. In that scenario, Truman understood his role, principles, and priorities to made a choice that was contradictory to the demands of a subordinate. While Karl Rove was a very influential figure in the Bush Administration, the power, authority, and final decisions still rested upon President Bush. As Bush elaborated once, "I'm the decider." --Jimmy Duong

By Coro Fellows

 |  March 4, 2010; 4:43 AM ET
Category:  A leader's team Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"He was a critical member of the administration, but he was not the figure chosen to make the final decisions."

"By understanding their power of choice, leaders can draw the line between guidance and dependency by standing firm to a set of principles that can guide their decisions."
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To ignore the mechanism by which leaders are chosen is to insure that only historical perspective will qualify and define good leadership.

The problems start when, having defined good leadership de post facto, you attribute the operational roles to the success of the leadership. Stalin had his Beria, Bush had his Rove, and the Enron Team were the Smartest Guys In The Room. The failure is in the supposition that you can "run the Government like a Business" when the hierarchy arose from the mechanism of leader choice and not team formation.

Posted by: gannon_dick | March 4, 2010 1:56 PM
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