On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Howard Gardner
Scholar

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.

Obama needs to go to the mat

Question: The conventional political wisdom is that the American public will reject politicians who propose or embrace a plan to bring the federal budget into balance through tax hikes and/or deep spending cuts. Is this a leadership challenge without a good solution? Can there be leadership without follow-ship?

The challenge is to create followership. There is no easy or ready formula for this. The leader must believe in his or her guts that balancing the budget is the highest priority and must find numerous ways in which to convey the point, using what I term "multiple representations"--stories, analogies, images, adages, dramatizations, etc. While the overall message should remain positive (this is the kind of society in which we all would prefer to live), the leader should not hesitate to dramatize the costs of not having a balanced budget.

Finally, and most important, the leader must succeed in convincing himself or herself, and the potential audience, that the change can and will take place. It is important to stress, to repeat, that in the latter years of the Clinton administration, there was actually a budget surplus. If we could have a surplus a decade ago, there is no reason in principle that we can't have one some years from now. If the followership believes that the leader is willing to go to the mat for this goal--even to sacrifice re-election--he or she is far more likely to succeed. If there is ambivalence, uncertainty and lack of focus, then the proposed mind-change is doomed. Any leader who prefers to sweep this problem under the rug is not a leader at all, in my view.

By Howard Gardner

 |  November 30, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Crisis leadership , Followership , Government leadership , Managing Crises , Political leadership , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Upending conventional wisdom | Next: Americans are starved for fiscal truth

Comments

Please report offensive comments below.



Bill Clinton was President from 1993-2001.

The deficit became progressively smaller due to huge CAPITAL GAINS tax revenue generated by the buuble in TECHNOLOGY stocks !!!


It was not because there was a democrat in office !!!!!


Posted by: PeterNYC | December 1, 2010 7:02 PM
Report Offensive Comment

"It is important to stress, to repeat, that in the latter years of the Clinton administration, there was actually a budget surplus. If we could have a surplus a decade ago, there is no reason in principle that we can't have one some years from now."

In the latter years of the Clinton administration we had drawn so heavily on the illusionary "peace dividend" that our military was a hollow shell lacking the proper equipment to take on a 5th rate country like Iraq. We had also enacted medicare reimbursement schedules so draconian nursing homes began shutting down and "doc fixes" have become annual necessities. If a family stops repairing their car for 8 years and only pays 1/2 their medical bills, they too can generate checkbook surpluses similar to those of the Clinton administration. I would hope the new Congress will look for more meaningful solutions.

Posted by: WoodbridgeVa1 | November 30, 2010 3:14 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Post a Comment




characters remaining

 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company