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Michael Maccoby
Scholar

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Using the presidential bully pulpit

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 president's leadership challenge is to focus the American people on achieving a common purpose. This is not so hard to do when the nation faces a clear threat, such as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It is much harder to do when people have different views about the nature of the threat, such as the budget deficit.

People on the Right see big government and taxes as the main threat to liberty and prosperity. On the Left, people view cutting the federal budget as a threat to the needy. It is unlikely that the president can persuade either extreme to share a common purpose. But the views of most Americans may be more flexible than those at the political extremes. The genius of American democracy, Tocqueville wrote in the 1830s, was "self interest rightly understood". The challenge for Obama is to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to persuade most of us that our future is threatened unless we cut the deficit while protecting those of us most in need of help.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  November 30, 2010; 11:47 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: Slash and smile, with a stiff upper lip | Next: Looking for love from an unloving public

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