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Katherine Tyler Scott
Business leader

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.

Work with those that would see you fail

Question: Like U.S. presidents, military and non-profit leaders often face the equivalent of "midterm elections" in which they and their strategies are subject to an initial market test or performance evaluation. What's the first thing President Obama, or any leader, should do or say when confronted with unambiguously negative results from a mid-course evaluation?

First, I recommend that he graciously congratulate all who were elected and remind them that the work of the institutions of government is the work of the people, regardless of party affiliation or divisive campaign rhetoric. Then, he needs to speak to the American public about what he has learned from their vote and reinterpret his vision for change in light of what he has learned.

He should announce his team of advisers; and, given the announcement of the speaker-to-be to "not compromise on their positions or principles," the president will need to also rely on faith in something greater than him to confront such entrenchment. He should convene all the congressional and senate Democrats to shape a plan that identifies and prioritizes the top domestic and foreign policy issues-- as well as specific strategies for working collaboratively with Republicans on behalf of the public good. Successful negotiation begins with both parties doing this kind of work. Then, invite Republican leaders into dialogue to discuss the issues on which both parties can agree to work together and achieve results that improve the lives of all Americans, especially those most in need. Whatever plan is developed, it should provide clear indicators of progress and time frames for accomplishing goals, and it should describe the intended impact on the lives of citizens.

A monthly scorecard detailing what the president and Congress are doing is essential. In this way more Americans can track both the process and the progress being made. It isn't that the public lacks access to this information now, but the volume and complexity of data require an ethic of responsible thought and judgment that seems to be in short supply these days. The president and his team must now develop and implement a revised communication plan that informs the American public regularly about what is being done to work across ideological and political fault lines to obtain results. The scorecard should be factual and would show concretely the similarities and differences between what the president is doing and what the Congress is doing. We should not accept the appearance rather than the reality of cooperation; nor can we tolerate the unconditional resistance to change seen these past two years. In the long term those who are all about power not purpose, about self-interest not the common good, about control not compassion will be exposed as non-leaders.

The combination of difficult issues and our contemporary modes of communication can easily position leaders into being reactive and defensive in their responses. To stay ahead of the confusion and garbled fabrications, the president cannot allow those who have stated publicly their commitment to his destruction to define who he is or what he is doing. He also can no longer depend on the media to counter mistruths; nor can he depend on the reasonableness of those seized with fear and frustration to shape the narrative.

He must now work with those who would rather see him fail than the country to succeed; with those who have already said they will not compromise, and with those who have worked to de-legitimize him from the beginning. He may never be able to change their opinions about him or his beliefs, but there are millions counting on real leadership. He must be the initiator of finding the common ground and must demonstrate his ability to lead from a place where we can come together to achieve even more substantial change. The next two years will show what the president is made of and what he was made for. They will also show us whether real leadership exists in Congress; and they will show us what kind of country we really are and can become.

By Katherine Tyler Scott

 |  November 2, 2010; 10:53 AM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Government leadership , Leadership development , Political leadership , Politics , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Obama needs to embrace his critics | Next: Every day is election day


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All about power? Nancy Pelosi is all about power. Harry Reid is all about power. Barbara Boxer is all about power. All of the career politicians are all about power. We can easily tell which ones are all about power by finding out who is against term limits.

Posted by: bobbo2 | November 7, 2010 9:39 AM
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The Republican "leadership" already has stated that their legislative priority for the next two years is to ensure that Obama is a one-term president. What part of that do the Democrats not understand? The suggestion that Obama should work with those who would see him fail is misguided. Hasn't he tried that already? It's time to try something different.

Posted by: KenBryson | November 6, 2010 3:54 AM
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“ ….he needs to speak to the American public about what he has learned from their vote”

President Obama has already told us what he thinks of our votes. He told us we’re either stupid or crazy of driven to the point of uncontrollable irrationality from the stresses of life. If only we would submit meekly and unquestioningly to his will, he’ll make everything all right.

So, given his worldview, why should he pay any attention to our crazy and hysterical votes?

Bill Clinton listened to us. He listened to us and he changed and he became one of the best presidents we've ever had.

But Obama? He's just not big enough. I'm sorry, but it's true.


Posted by: ZZim | November 3, 2010 11:51 AM
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Obama lost Tuesday. Ms. Scott still thinks there is a mandate for the monumental and unwanted change Obama pushed.

Scott is dead wrong.

Posted by: cpameetingbook | November 3, 2010 9:28 AM
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This seems like a good suggestion until you consider that he has already tried that. Obama cant make people who want to see him fail work with him and he looks like a patsie if he continues trying it. Obama and the dems didnt lose the house bcz the republicans wldnt work with them they lost it bcz they tried to hard to work with republicans. The republicans have already declared war and it is up to Obama and the democrats to get the message.

Posted by: rbprtman23 | November 2, 2010 7:43 PM
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