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Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)
Scholar/Administrator

Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

Todd Henshaw is currently the director of executive leadership programs at Wharton. Previously, he directed the leadership program at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

On being a 'net negative'

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?

It's often difficult for leaders to know when they've become a net negative for their organizations. As leaders, we would like to think that we are good for the organization, and will work very hard to overcome tough times.

In Nancy Pelosi's case, she's presided over the least popular Congress in history, she's been a lightning rod for the opposition, and Republicans have artfully associated her with increasing the debt, rushing through unpopular health-care legislation, and preventing necessary bipartisan efforts to bridge the increasing gap between Left and Right.

Pelosi has become an anchor around the neck of the once hopeful Democratic Party, and the election should have been signal enough for her to move on. Any attempt on her part to linger, to continue to represent Democratic ideals and intentions, will further set the party back. She's had her opportunity, it's time for new blood.

Leaders need to be able to step back and consider the net benefit of their continued presence, hopefully considering objective criteria, such as: "How is the organization performing under my watch?" "Are we successfully accomplishing our mission, our goals?" It's unfortunate that leaders who were once part of their organization's success stay even when the answers to these questions are "no." Like great athletes, leaders need to know when it's time to go and to let the next generation step up.

Pelosi might think that her actions to stay as Minority Leader are for the good of the party. I would hope that trusted advisers thank her for her service, and ask her to move on.

By Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

 |  November 8, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Failures , Government leadership , Leadership weaknesses , Political leadership , Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Speaker Pelosi was maligned by people in the opposing party for political reasons. Ask yourself if she did as you said would they not malign the next person, and what would you have gained? Nothing. In the meantime you would have lost your own self respect for caving to people who would have maligned you anyway.

Posted by: whiteha1 | November 11, 2010 4:39 PM
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Pelosi's decision to stay on is bad for her, her party, and her country. It is also exactly what I expected from an uber-partisan narcissist of the first order.

Instead of allowing issues to take center stage she has guaranteed that she will be the issue as often as not, thereby deflecting the attention that our country's serious problems desperately need. By staying on she almost assures the Republicans the Independent vote in the next election, allowing them a freer hand to ignore this constituency and instead play to their base.

By staying on Pelosi will enshrine the memory of her time in Congress as one of extraordinary partisanship and self-absorption by our Representatives. A time when the only legislation passed was done so along party lines. A time when legislation was used to "help our friends and punish our enemies" rather than promoting the national interest.

Posted by: robert17 | November 10, 2010 6:43 PM
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Thank you Colonel for your candid assessment of the current situation and your remarks about Congresswoman Pelossi. I agree, that she has been a force for good, but she has been the rally force for the republicans and I feel that this is precisely why she needs to take a back seat now and let new leadership run things. In a word, she has had her day and now like all good leaders, it's time to move aside and let someone else take the reigns. Of all people who understand leadership, you should understand the absolute necessity of leaderhsip changes. It's good for the followers to have new leaders, it brings a fresh perspective to old and new ideas and a synergy that did not exist prior to the change. Change is a must, it's desired and needed.

Posted by: spamizham | November 10, 2010 3:00 AM
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When Republicans don't like something you can bet it is a good thing. Healthcare reform, financial services regulation, living wage provisions are just a few. The election was not a National Referendum on Nancy Pelosi, it was about the economic state of affairs that Bush disintegrated. I support Nancy's decision to stay and be a thorn in their posteriors.

Posted by: fasm7700 | November 9, 2010 11:06 AM
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