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Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.

No time for twiddling thumbs

Q: New Jersey's new Republican governor, Chris Christie, has forced cutbacks in pay for teachers and superintendents, capped local property taxes, cut pension benefits for state workers, canceled popular public works projects and closed a $11 billion state budget deficit. Yet in spite of these highly controversial initiatives and a blunt speaking style, his popularity in a heavily Democratic state is rising. What is the lesson here for other political leaders?

The short term lesson is: in times of crisis, have a plan and show that you are willing to pursue it relentlessly. There is no time for twiddling thumbs. For much the same reasons, there is support in Britain for David Cameron's austerity plan. But there also has to be a plan B--what happens when the short-term measures do not deal with longer-term structural and infrastructural problems, and with the public's apparently insatiable appetite for their own preferred entitlements. President Obama is now experiencing the backlash against Exaggerated Expectations. And Christie and Cameron need to do a lot more work--and have a lot more luck--before their temporary surge in popularity becomes consolidated.

By Howard Gardner

 |  October 12, 2010; 10:33 AM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership , Government leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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