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Marty Linsky

Marty Linsky

Co-founder of the leadership-focused consulting firm, Cambridge Leadership Associates, Marty Linsky teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-authors the advice column, Leadership House Call and blogs at Linsky on Leadership .

Prepare the caucus for letdown

Question: In approaching the coming Congressional budget battle, House Republican leaders have decided to forsake the bipartisan center and bow to the spending-cut demands of the most conservative members of their caucus. This mirrors the strategy of House Democratic leaders who, in the previous session, accommodated the demands of their most liberal members on key issues, only to lose power in the next election. Is it more effective for leaders to demonstrate a willingness to compromise early on, or to stake out a hard line in the hope of compromising less later?

Compromise is an art form.

Leadership is about disappointing your own people at a rate they can absorb.

Staking out a hard line at the beginning will either give the most conservative Republicans false hopes or box in the Republican House leaders when the time for compromise comes. Either is bad news. This is the time when Boehner, Ryan, et al need to help prepare their caucus for the inevitable letdown, rather than take the easy short-term route of pandering. They will regret what they have done.

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By Marty Linsky

 |  February 15, 2011; 12:41 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Government leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: In negotiation, don't give away too much | Next: Servant leadership in politics


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What happens if the caucus is at odds with the American people. That is the bigger issue here. Recent polling show Americans not to be in favor of what the GOP is trying to cut.

That will come back to haunt this group in 2012.

Posted by: jjj141 | February 22, 2011 8:51 AM
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Dr. Linsky,

The question asks Is it more effective for "leaders" to demonstrate a willingness to compromise early on, or to stake out a hard line in the hope of compromising less later? I agree with you that leadership is about disappointing your supporters at a rate they can absorb. Using this definition that leadership is an activity. Would you agree that leadership is a difficult activity to objectively say is occurring (when are you actually disappointing your supporters? Are you actually disappointing your supporters? Who are they etc)?

This definition has led me to believe that “leaders” don’t exist, and that the word leader actually masks what leadership is. It seems that using the word leader is just symbolic rhetoric that can mean anything.

Do you believe eliminating the use of the word leader is a viable technical solution ...to help promote leadership activities?


Posted by: theline | February 16, 2011 9:51 PM
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