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Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

'How sweet it is to wear the crown'

Question: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week confronted a dilemma faced by many leaders: whether to step aside when things go wrong. What should be the criteria guiding such a decision? Did Pelosi make the right choice? Should she have offered to resign but let her caucus make the decision? What about Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid?

We Republicans are delighted that the Democratic faces in Congress remain those of Pelosi and Reid. Their decisions to remain leaders is bad news for Democrats.
Yet it's surprisingly unsurprising. Even great historic leaders like Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Maggie Thatcher, and many others simply hung on too long.
Why do they, even after achieving great feats? Shakespeare puts the reason simply: "How sweet it is to wear the crown" (Henry VI, Part III).

Wanting to retain power reveals their awesome ambition, which got them into power initially. "Great men have reaching hands" (Henry VI, Part II)--as do great women, and all aspiring non-greats.

Yet by hanging around too long, they do a disservice to their organizations, which otherwise would bring up fresher leaders, more atuned to the present predicaments rather than past ones.

And they risk falling further. This the sad Cardinal Wolsey realized as he left the King's service--"Farewell! A long farewell, to all my greatness!"--after staying too long.
The good Cardinal in Henry VIII analyzed his woes by explaining "the state of man," starting off great to wholesome praise, so "he bears his blushing honors thick upon him."

Then comes the "frost, a killing frost," which causes the "good easy man" to realize "his greatness is a-ripening" and "nips his root. And then he falls, as I do."

And as Pelosi and Reid will, by not bidding farewell now.

By Ken Adelman

 |  November 8, 2010; 5:44 PM ET
Category:  Congressional leadership , Failures , Government leadership , Leadership weaknesses , Making mistakes , Political leadership , Politics , Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Some force-fed humility | Next: Democrats should stick with Pelosi and Reid


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Alas, poor Pelosi, I knew her WhiteHa1. The Speaker's time is "... but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his [or her] hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, [yet] Signifying nothing."

Posted by: LieToMe | November 15, 2010 11:49 AM
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Well I say to you as a Democrat, "Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war."

Since I have not "forgotten the face of my father", I do not believe you have the gravitas to say what any Democrat should do. If I, as a democrat, have to be saddled with the insufferable John Boehner, then you will have to deal with Nancy Pelosi.

Posted by: whiteha1 | November 11, 2010 4:32 PM
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