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

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.

In the blame game, no one wins

Question: In taking control of the House this week, Republicans have committed themselves to investigating and repealing all of the major initiatives taken by the Democratic president and Congress over the past two years. How much should the new leaders of any organization focus on undoing the past as opposed to charting a more affirmative course for the future?

Leaders in any transition or transfer of power should always consider and learn from what has preceded them; but when the past becomes the main reference point for leading change, it is indicative of a lack of vision. The absence of a preferred image of the future makes dismantling what someone else has done easier than having the courage to initiate something new. The plans of some Congressional leaders to engage in a "search and destroy" mission appears to be punitive, regressive and a waste of taxpayer monies.

When President Obama took office two years ago, he made a decision to not hold investigative hearings into decisions made by George W. Bush, his Cabinet members or the Congress, regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the choices made that led to the economic crisis. He influenced members of his Party to move forward with the agenda promised to the American public. Although the enormity of the crisis made attending to this vision difficult, the focus of the response was on improving the future for all Americans. Many Democrats and Independents felt that the president had a legitimate reason to hold investigative hearings on the work of the previous administration; but given the country's situation and the desire for consensus on the most pressing issues confronting us, he decided otherwise. If the Republican leadership is wise, they will follow this example.

I don't believe that the public has an appetite for politically motivated public floggings and self-serving shows of force at this point in time. What is needed are leaders interested in serving the needs of all Americans, not just the base of either Party; we need constructive dialogue and substantive, reasonable solutions that address the real problems facing the country now and in the future .

Seasoned, mature political leaders understand that having a majority of votes in either the Senate or the House does not equate to leadership or competent governance. Effective leadership is the capacity to exert influence over others, especially those who are in opposition to your position. The power entrusted to elected leaders comes with an obligation to exercise their power with prudence. It would be a travesty for either Party to waste the trust placed in them by engaging in retributive acts or in squandering already limited government resources.

We aren't in the era of Watergate. The government is more accountable and transparent than ever before; we know most of what has happened and why over the past two years. We haven't always liked or agreed with the decisions made, but none were surprises, nor were they made in secret or in a vacuum. Those who want to redo 2008 to 2010 will see the decisions that contributed to the fragility of the economy and that have locked the country into two intractable wars had their origins well before this time frame.

The president's decision two years ago spared us from a blame and shame game in which no one wins. Attempts to change immediate past decisions whose primary goal is the improved health and well-being of millions of Americans--and any efforts to punish and demonize those who made these decisions, without first hearing alternative and specific plans for effectively addressing the issues in dispute--is irresponsible. Concentrating so many resources on undoing previous decisions is a distraction and a cover-up of the real problem: the lack of visionary leadership.

Return to all panelist responses

By Katherine Tyler Scott

 |  January 5, 2011; 10:57 AM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Economic crisis , Government leadership , Making mistakes , Political leadership , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: House Reps: Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.... | Next: Correcting the course


Please report offensive comments below.

It would appear that nothing new will happen with this congress. That might be a good thing but they should be paid for what they do and not what they say. I think they all should volunteer their service for nothing as that is what they are really worth. 14 trillion in debt and counting

Posted by: frichards72 | January 8, 2011 4:30 PM
Report Offensive Comment

I would like to see a redo of 2008. The main reason I did not vote for our democrat was because the republican promised to vote to repeal the health care law. The health care law would be the reason why I would not vote democrat in 2010 as my rates went up, at the pharmacy it increased my cost substantially, and I have less choices now. I see a redo of the last two years as a positive not a negative.

Posted by: rlholloway | January 7, 2011 8:43 PM
Report Offensive Comment

I am not sure where Ms. Scott has been for the past two years, but President Obama spent 18 months of it looking backwards and blaming President Bush for every bad thing that has occurred since his election.

As for the absence of secrecy, she has conveniently forgotten the back room deals that President Obama cut with the pharmacutical companies and the Democrats' closed-door drafting of health care "reform."

I do agree, however, that we need leaders that serve America, and not just the base of either party. Democrats selfishly served their based by unilaterally passing health care over the objections of every Republican member of Congress. Even worse, they passed health care even though as many Americans opposed (and still oppose) health care as support it.

Democrats now rue that they must reap what they sowed. Repealing health care is change we can all believe in.

Posted by: ATLMichael | January 7, 2011 5:41 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Post a Comment

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company