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Robert Goodwin

Robert Goodwin

Robert J. Goodwin is CEO and co-founder of Executives Without Borders; former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force and appointee at USAID, the State Department and the White House.

Infusing new blood

Q: In appointing a new Supreme Court Justice to replace John Paul Stevens, President Obama was seeking someone who could provide intellectual and personal leadership of the liberal block. His gamble in nominating Elena Kagan is bringing in someone from outside the 'priesthood' of appeals-court judges. What are the advantages and disadvantages of selecting a leader with non-traditional qualifications?

President Obama wants to be an agent of change - and whenever any organization (be it public or private sector) is in the midst of a transformational period, it makes sense to infuse that organization with new blood. That's not just because a leader from outside the traditional ranks brings fresh perspectives and new insights; it's also because of what the choice of an outsider says to the organization's stakeholders.

Consider the recent selection of former Dupont CEO and banking-outsider Chad Holliday, Jr. as Bank of America's new board Chairman. That move - which comes fresh on the heels of naming Brian Moynihan, a well-entrenched insider, as the bank's new CEO - sent messages that many financial institutions are trying to articulate these days: that a new day has dawned, that business as usual is a thing of the past, and that a bright and exciting future lies ahead.

In nominating appellate court outsider Elena Kagan, President Obama is essentially sending the same message; that we as a people have embarked on an era where sound judgment supersedes holding the title of "judge" when it comes to serving on the highest court in our land.

Of course, good judgment is a subjective quality - and any Senator that might disagree with Solicitor General Kagan's views will likely leverage any perceived lack of experience (the key vulnerability of an "outsider") into a powerful talking point during the confirmation process.

Many Americans see the Supreme Court as a stabilizing force in our Democracy and don't want judges legislating from the bench. If those opposed to her nomination can succeed in painting Ms. Kagan as unprepared for the tremendous responsibility she may soon assume, then the president's choice of a nominee without the traditional pedigree may turn out to be politically costly.

By Robert Goodwin

 |  May 11, 2010; 4:55 PM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

Goodwin: change for the sake of change is futile and often counter-productive.

You raise solid private sector examples where fresh blood - as well as a track record,experience and success - show the public and shareholders the "kind" of change they want to bring.

Expanding beyond a gene pool that his been overfished these many years may be a good thing, but only to the extent that Kagan is bringing experience and values to the job that are part of the record and discernable by senators or citizens.

She doesn't have that record,and where she has been public - banning military recruitment at Harvard, and fighting it until the end - is hardly an endearing precedent.

I want a solid jurist who will listen to all arguments and apply the law to their best ability. Lap dogs and ideologues with preconceived notions need not apply. Principles are not blinders to the truth.

Kagan is at best an unknown quantity to the masses, but President Obama has his reasons.

Those two facts should chill anyone thinking about this nomination.

Posted by: CoughlinC | May 11, 2010 8:16 PM
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