Archive: Government leadership
Leadership is about trade-offs, and if Walker believes that taking away union members' bargaining rights is the best way to produce the sort of reforms he is seeking, he may be willing to sacrifice these potential downsides.
By Jena McGregor | March 11, 2011; 09:12 AM ET | Comments (387)
Gray would have done better to call for an investigation by a party completely unrelated to his campaign. It is only someone in that position who can act with complete credibility and ask the bigger questions--if the matter turns out to be true--about what led it to happen in the first place.
By Jena McGregor | March 7, 2011; 12:58 PM ET | Comments (25)
Gingrich has one thing figured out. The will-he-or-won't-he, committee-or-no-committee, announcement-or-no-announcement back and forth is at the very least keeping him in the news.
By Jena McGregor | March 3, 2011; 09:45 AM ET | Comments (38)
Christie would likely say that he is only speaking the hard truths about the future of his state and what must be done to get costs under control. But a big reason why his message works so well is that he's found another adversary for voters fretting over their finances. And all the swagger and simple speech in the world isn't quite as powerful as a common foe.
By Jena McGregor | February 28, 2011; 10:38 AM ET | Comments (112)
Whether we agree or not with a senator's extended decision-making record, at least he or she has one we can turn to to decide what they might do in the future. We may disagree with some of our potential presidents' past decisions, but at some point, I'd hope a track record of effective legislation creation and wise decision-making might outweigh those differences.
By Jena McGregor | February 23, 2011; 09:34 AM ET | Comments (9)
Is it better leadership for Walker, the Democratic senators and the union leaders--each in their own separate ways--to hold fast to their principles or find a third way that will bring a stalemate to the end? What is a more effective leadership skill: Steadfast adherence to one's beliefs or the ability to negotiate well?
By Jena McGregor | February 22, 2011; 11:33 AM ET | Comments (16)
By putting constituents in her shoes, Purdue is helping them to see that on the heels of a massive recession that has pushed state governments to the breaking point, there are no easy choices. Helping people realize how difficult it is to decide whether to cut spending in education, public safety or social services could help elicit a more cooperative and civil discussion about what to do.
By Jena McGregor | February 17, 2011; 10:23 AM ET | Comments (30)
The president may not be winning any leadership medals for his budget dealings, but the opposition's leader isn't either.
By Jena McGregor | February 16, 2011; 01:08 PM ET | Comments (138)
One has to wonder why the president would establish a panel of experts and seek their recommendations if their biggest proposals are to be ignored. At the very least, the president could offer a more complete explanation about why some of the commission's major proposals were not endorsed. Even better would have been to offer alternative ways to address some of the big spending areas--Social Security and Medicare, for instance--with equally big results.
By Jena McGregor | February 14, 2011; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (16)
Granted, being first out of the gate may mean a candidate is a little more vulnerable. It may mean the message isn't fully focus grouped and straw polled. And it may mean the talking points still need some fine-tuning by party operatives. Call me naive, but if they're declaring their candidacy early because they truly believe they have something to contribute, it also means they're a leader, in every sense of the word.
By Jena McGregor | February 10, 2011; 09:23 AM ET | Comments (11)
In a place as volatile as Egypt, such a drawn-out transition has the potential to be much, much worse. The much-needed reforms Mubarak has promised would have little weight. The expectation of seismic changes in the country's government could bring current operations to a standstill, inviting even more chaos.
By Jena McGregor | February 2, 2011; 02:32 PM ET | Comments (0)
If Huntsman does actually run, he will have formidable foes in the primary better able to rally the party's more conservative and rural voters. But in an age when civility seems ascendant, and when many voters jaded by the heated rhetoric in Washington are looking for someone who can work across the aisle, Huntsman's Achilles heel--a forced position of gratitude to the president--could also end up being his secret weapon.
By Jena McGregor | February 1, 2011; 05:36 AM ET | Comments (18)
The uprising presents his administration with a bewildering dilemma between American ideals and American interests, and most presidents who've come before him have ultimately chosen the latter, with differing fates.
By Jena McGregor | January 30, 2011; 04:18 PM ET | Comments (35)
If regulators were incented to stop fraud and prevent future financial apocalypses on the same scale that traders were rewarded for selling worthless derivatives, we'd surely be in a very different place today. The best talent coming out of our best universities might not immediately be shipping off to Wall Street, but to Washington instead.
By Jena McGregor | January 28, 2011; 09:11 AM ET | Comments (28)
The concept of investing for the future during tough times is one of the most fundamental ideas in business--or leadership, for that matter. Just as CEOs who cut off spending in R&D and employee training during a recession will find themselves slipping against competitors when things turn up again, a country that doesn't invest in education, innovation and infrastructure is likely to quickly fall behind its peers.
By Jena McGregor | January 27, 2011; 08:37 AM ET | Comments (10)
The decision over Emanuel's legitimacy as a candidate hinges on several intertwined leadership questions. For one, should exceptions be made for leaders who have been performing a government service? Or is the residency requirement a prudent way to make sure potential local officials have first-hand knowledge about the issues their citizens face?
By Jena McGregor | January 25, 2011; 09:01 AM ET | Comments (56)
Whatever you may think of the health care reform law--and even many supporters lament that it is flawed--it's a start to a deeply problematic systemic issue our country must face one way or another. Most would agree it needs amending in some fashion. And perhaps it's problematic enough that an entirely new piece of legislation would make sense. But leaders who want to improve upon it would do better to suggest alternatives first, and then work to overturn the problems later.
By Jena McGregor | January 20, 2011; 09:09 AM ET | Comments (53)
A leader at Boehner's level should actually want to take every opportunity to present a unified front to other countries--no matter how much we may disagree with some of their practices and policies--and to improve relations with someone who leads a country fast becoming this nation's largest global rival. Yes, Boehner is meeting with President Jintao later this week. But a social setting like Wednesday night's event offers unique opportunities for leaders to find commonalities, get to know each other as people and engage in additional dialogue. And the only way to grab them is to be there.
By Jena McGregor | January 19, 2011; 10:11 AM ET | Comments (211)
Wednesday's coda to the initial aftermath of Saturday's shooting in Tucson offered up two distinct portraits of two very different leaders.
By Jena McGregor | January 13, 2011; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (237)
Symbolism plays a huge role in leadership, and O'Brien's investment in the Iron Market's reopening within a year of the tragedy is an example of its power. Symbolic gestures motivate people in any situation, but especially in a place where the scale of human misery is as tremendous as it is in Port-au-Prince. And in Haiti, where so little hope is left, it may be one of the only remaining things that works.
By Jena McGregor | January 12, 2011; 09:32 AM ET | Comments (2)
All of that raises an interesting leadership question. By editorializing on the Tucson tragedy, is Dupnik boldly pushing the national conversation forward and speaking out about what he believes in, as good leaders should? Or is he overstepping his bounds, inserting his own personal ideals at a time when he should be objective?
By Jena McGregor | January 11, 2011; 09:31 AM ET | Comments (98)
But the fact that six people had to die before officials got serious about toning down the vitriol makes a mockery of this thing we call leadership. Real leaders would have stepped forward before this tragedy occurred, making it a priority to calm the discourse before things got out of hand. The ultimate irony, of course, is that Gabrielle Giffords was just that kind of leader.
By Jena McGregor | January 10, 2011; 10:05 AM ET | Comments (29)
Daley's ties to business, his centrist politics and, perhaps most important, his age and gravitas, should go a long way to helping Obama answer critics about his weaknesses. That is, as long as he keeps letting Daley disagree with him.
By Jena McGregor | January 6, 2011; 04:33 PM ET | Comments (10)
Companies with major strategic problems tend to bolster their executive ranks with outside expertise, whether as employees or consultants. Coaches coming off of losing seasons are expected to bring in new assistants who can overhaul problem areas. For Obama, too, a bigger mix of inside and outside candidates in his major reshuffle could go a long way toward balancing frank assessments and bold new ideas with institutional knowledge and trust.
By Jena McGregor | January 5, 2011; 12:59 PM ET | Comments (11)
What's admirable leadership elsewhere could be a disaster when it comes to Congress. The problem? Decentralization works in other places because everyone is working toward the same goal.
By Jena McGregor | January 4, 2011; 01:04 PM ET | Comments (14)
Mullen's letter, requested by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, proves that support from a respected name on a subject can still help cut through partisan acrimony and surmount petty differences.
By Jena McGregor | December 22, 2010; 09:26 AM ET | Comments (9)
Call it whatever you want, but Obama is pulling a Clinton-esque move, doing his best to court voters in the middle. Still, by making the tax cut deal the first step toward that approach, he differs in one important way.
By Jena McGregor | December 17, 2010; 12:42 PM ET | Comments (21)
CEOs are increasingly saying that it is uncertainty over the economy and regulations that is prompting them not to spend, or invest toward hiring, the nearly $2 trillion in cash on their books--the highest amount in half a century.
By Jena McGregor | December 15, 2010; 04:05 PM ET | Comments (11)
Seemingly all of the obituaries, remembrances and elegies following Holbrooke's death, on Dec. 13, highlight his extraordinary ego (here was a man who coveted the position of Secretary of State from the time he was a young foreign service member in Vietnam) while simultaneously recognizing him for his willingness to advise his young proteges.
By Jena McGregor | December 14, 2010; 01:11 PM ET | Comments (6)
Boehner may be right that people don't like to give anything up when negotiating a solution--that's why we look to leaders, after all, to hold firm on our most important principles and values, even if it means giving up something of lesser significance. To reject outright the notion of compromise may make the incoming speaker sound like a tough fighter. But if he's left with little common ground, he won't be successful as a leader, either.
By Jena McGregor | December 13, 2010; 12:24 PM ET | Comments (24)
Obama may be pulling a Clinton, and trying to woo independent voters after tough midterm elections. But in 1994, the United States was on the cusp of an extraordinary boom in the economy, and any of Clinton's achievements, no matter how skilled a leader and politician he may have been, must be viewed against that backdrop.
By Jena McGregor | December 10, 2010; 09:25 AM ET | Comments (2)
Whatever the outcome of the bill, and it's not likely to be pretty with that mishmash of agendas, the even more troubling downside is what it says about how our leaders view rules and deadlines in the face of political gain. Putting off tough decisions may help you look better in the short term, but it's hardly leadership. Making the details and intricacies of a trillion dollar budget a top priority that doesn't get pushed to the last-minute, however, is.
By Jena McGregor | December 8, 2010; 01:16 PM ET | Comments (23)
Both Democrats and Republicans can say there wasn't time for such deliberations with a deadline looming, but both have also known this was coming for years. Then again, carefully planning for the future, as well as tackling the toughest problems first so your successors aren't left with them, takes leadership. And that's been in woefully short supply during the tax cut debate.
By Jena McGregor | December 7, 2010; 12:04 PM ET | Comments (40)
What does this have to do with the news that the tax cuts are likely to get a temporary extension? Plenty. Those who favor ending the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy seem most worried about what this does to the deficit during the temporary extension, or about what this does to Obama's political fortunes--it was a campaign promise, after all, and many on the Left see such "negotiations" as preliminary caving to Republicans.
By Jena McGregor | December 3, 2010; 10:49 AM ET | Comments (100)
It is the job of leaders, certainly, to debate, probe and not lose their skepticism about critical matters. But the opponents to repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell" now face an exhaustive amount of evidence that doing so poses little risk to the military. Not to mention it has support from the country's top two defense and military leaders, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen. All of which raises an important leadership question: Where's the line between debating and questioning findings on critical matters and ignoring exhaustive research and expertise?
By Jena McGregor | December 2, 2010; 12:50 PM ET | Comments (99)
Of course, this is the Senate we're talking about here, where politics has become so corroding and divisive that the chamber has nearly lost its capacity to govern. Perhaps the mere expectation from our leaders of multitasking is too much to ask. Yes, Congress needs to set priorities and focus on coming to a compromise on the tax cuts. But to formalize that into a pledge that opposes any legislation the other party proposes is neglecting the rest of their duties and adding even more political kindling to an already explosive situation.
By Jena McGregor | December 1, 2010; 10:26 AM ET | Comments (225)
Complete openness and transparency is not only impossible but undesirable in any large institution. Controlling who has access to information that matters--without limiting access to information that would be helpful to employees--is a tension every leader should be wrestling with today.
By Jena McGregor | November 30, 2010; 12:08 PM ET | Comments (5)
George W. Bush and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may not seem like they have a lot in common. One is a mid-60s former leader of the free world who famously called the Web "the Internets"; the other is a hoodie-wearing, twenty-something entrepreneur who runs one of the world's fastest growing technology companies.
By Jena McGregor | November 30, 2010; 12:08 PM ET | Comments (0)
Facing a ballooning deficit and a historic recession, Obama is doing the right thing by freezing the pay of federal workers for the next two years. But those who want sharply deeper cuts should make sure they know the unintended consequences that could surface. When the economy does turn around, and someday it will, more austere cuts to federal pay and benefits could prompt a brain drain of the best and brightest, no longer willing to pass up better pay to be physicians caring for wounded soldiers, scientists deciding which important research gets funded, or computer engineers monitoring cyber-terrorists.
By Jena McGregor | November 29, 2010; 02:32 PM ET | Comments (135)
Miller's quixotic effort could soon reach the point of being more than detrimental to his own reputation--even tea party activists have said he risks damaging his own future political prospects--but could also be detrimental to the people he hoped to call his constituents.
By Jena McGregor | November 29, 2010; 07:39 AM ET | Comments (24)
Sensing what will anger people or ignite into a full-blown crisis--and what's a mere triviality that will be made worse by giving it attention--has tripped up Obama multiple times, as brouhahas over debates like the so-called "death panels" or the Guantanamo prisoners' trials have erupted before he could get in front of them.
By Jena McGregor | November 23, 2010; 12:21 AM ET | Comments (1)
It's hard to understand exactly what Pistole was thinking. The furor over the new pat-downs has been growing for days, and he needed to have a strategy for dealing sympathetically with the inevitable questions about what the TSA was doing in response to travelers' complaints. He tried, of course, but instead seemed intent on repeating talking points over and over again (such as how few people actually receive the new "enhanced" pat-downs). While he admitted the new policies were "invasive" and "uncomfortable," there was almost no explanation whatsoever for how the TSA was going to take into account fliers' fury.
By Jena McGregor | November 22, 2010; 09:24 AM ET | Comments (21)
Murkowski will be a leader to watch, keeping the possibility alive that she could decide to vote her own way, "pulling a Joe Lieberman" on occasion. She may not owe much to her party. But she may feel she owes at least something to the independents and even Democrats who swung her way.
By Jena McGregor | November 18, 2010; 12:44 PM ET | Comments (27)
In a way, Rangel's supporters are right--the real punishment for Rangel was losing a powerful position in the House, one that took years of seniority and status to earn. In that sense, his punishment was already meted out earlier this year. The process of an ethics trial would be much more meaningful if there were tiers of punishment below expulsion that explicitly brought with them more substantial penalties, such as demotions or fines.
By Jena McGregor | November 17, 2010; 12:41 PM ET | Comments (20)
But once a leader gets elected, the calculus changes. Rather than driving expectations up, leaders have to send them down, and then beat them. Finding the right balance between setting goals to be held accountable for and not promising too much may just be the most formidable leadership challenge leaders face--and one that's proving especially difficult for Obama.
By Jena McGregor | November 15, 2010; 08:07 AM ET | Comments (8)
The cutbacks the deficit commission's chairmen recommend may go nowhere, of course. Many of their other proposals, from cutting the mortgage tax deduction to increasing the Social Security retirement age, may never gain real traction. But with the wind at the backs of GOP lawmakers, federal workforce reductions--both in size and in benefits--could be tangible. Government employees could see frozen salaries, trimmed retirement benefits and halted bonus levels.
By Jena McGregor | November 12, 2010; 06:01 AM ET | Comments (6)
The pattern of mayors appointing chancellors outside the usual realm of longtime deputy public school system administrators is nothing new. Michelle Rhee's appointment in 2007 to lead D.C.'s schools surprised Washington, as the education nonprofit leader had never run a school--much less an organization anywhere near the size of the city's public school system.
By Jena McGregor | November 11, 2010; 11:24 AM ET | Comments (4)
The president, in effect, is confronting an all too classic problem. Obama's "legislation vs. leadership" quandary is not all that different from the "management vs. leadership" dilemma many people in power face. Many leaders aren't very good managers, while many managers don't really know how to lead. To find both qualities in one person--the ability to execute and the capacity to inspire--is exceedingly rare.
By Jena McGregor | November 9, 2010; 10:46 AM ET | Comments (4)
Obama is walking a high-wire tightrope. On the one hand, he needs to be willing to compromise, course correct and even renegotiate some of what he's already achieved. But on the other, he has to continue to stand by what he believes, and not bow so much to pressure that he ends up abandoning his ideals. After all, Obama did campaign on many, though not all, of the policies he worked on during his first two years in office.
By Jena McGregor | November 4, 2010; 09:55 AM ET | Comments (0)
We somehow hold faith that our leaders will get us out of our worst crises. That's especially true when it comes to subjects the average person is fuzzy about, like monetary policy and "quantitative easing."
By Jena McGregor | November 3, 2010; 02:55 PM ET | Comments (19)
Of course, actually "unifying" anyone--or anything--in Washington is extremely difficult, if not impossible, these days. And Obama may have tried to flex this mediation muscle against a Republican party that was obstinate in opposing him at every turn. But despite that frustration, Obama's calling his opponents enemies did nothing to help the situation. Even if it may seem a double standard at times...
By Jena McGregor | November 2, 2010; 09:19 AM ET | Comments (204)
Would President Barack Obama pass a leadership class at a top business school? Yes, but he wouldn't get an A.
By Jena McGregor | October 29, 2010; 11:43 AM ET | Comments (0)
the Democrats get the bloodbath that's expected, women could lose seats in national office for the first time in 30 years, reports the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Which leads to the question: Is Sarah Palin good for women in government?
By Jena McGregor | October 29, 2010; 12:01 AM ET | Comments (148)
And while it's two years before the next presidential election, Obama seemed to be campaigning for himself rather than the members of Congress who'll be elected next week. Despite some kind words for a few members of his party, Obama felt more candidate than leader, the savviest of which would have used humor to turn the conversation around and try to deflate the kind of anger and furor the country is gripped with these days.
By Jena McGregor | October 28, 2010; 11:40 AM ET | Comments (35)
The apex of this biennial bout of incivility was reached Monday--though with six more days until the election, it may yet be topped--when Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio said President Obama could take his endorsement and "shove it." Or actually, his lack of one. Caprio, the White House maintains, asked for an endorsement, but Obama chose not to give one to any of the candidates, out of respect to Caprio's independent opponent Lincoln Chafee, who has supported Obama in the past.
By Jena McGregor | October 27, 2010; 11:55 AM ET | Comments (18)
Why not? Rotating executives between top jobs happens all the time in business, and is seen as good management and corporate governance. It's a natural way for leaders to challenge themselves, develop their skills and stretch different management muscles for a few years.
By Jena McGregor | October 6, 2010; 09:49 AM ET | Comments (31)
Kissing too many babies and sitting around too many photo-op friendly kitchen tables may not look authentic, and no matter how much of a buzzword that may be, it really does matter.
By Jena McGregor | October 4, 2010; 10:56 PM ET | Comments (21)
One might argue, as HR gurus have, that knowing how you stand among your peers would make you motivated to perform better, in hopes of earning more. But the Berkeley and Princeton researchers argue the opposite.
By Jena McGregor | September 29, 2010; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (47)
When President Obama named Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state soon after winning the election, Washington pundits and press cheered the incoming president for his willingness to put together a "team of rivals." Doris Kearns Goodwin, the author...
By Jena McGregor | September 23, 2010; 12:37 AM ET | Comments (3)
The temptation to send a signal when filling such an important leadership role is a risky one. One sees it all the time: rather than simply picking the best person for a job, leaders make political decisions on who will ruffle the fewest feathers or send the right message to their employees, their investors or their constituents.
By Jena McGregor | September 22, 2010; 11:09 AM ET | Comments (2)
Obama's message problem is about more than just deciding when he does and doesn't need to pick up the mallet. The themes he crafts for his own speeches and campaign stops need to be simplified and winnowed down. I can't count the number of leaders and leadership experts I've spoken to over the years who say three is the magic number of separate goals or ideas people can easily focus on at the same time. Then, repeat them. Over and over and over again. And then again.
By Jena McGregor | September 17, 2010; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (41)
And so, Obama landed on a compromise--something leaders have to do every day. Except that in Obama's world (where voter dissatisfaction, a radically polarized political spectrum and a news media hungry to turn everything into a controversy), compromises don't have the usual effect.
By Jena McGregor | September 16, 2010; 11:56 AM ET | Comments (0)
The lessons for leaders are too many to count: Fenty is a textbook case for the risks not only of using brash tactics, but having an insular staff, lacking a sense of urgency and thumbing your nose at...
By Jena McGregor | September 15, 2010; 10:04 AM ET | Comments (11)
According to President Obama's new chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, the jobless rate in the United States is likely to remain high for a long time. But there's one place where there are plenty of jobs open to fill, and that's the President's economic policy and financial regulatory team.
By Jena McGregor | September 13, 2010; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (8)
No matter how much we like to turn our presidents and global CEOs into celebrities, no matter how much we prefer to reward heros and identify victims when large systems succeed or fail, and of course, no matter how powerful and transformative a good leader can be, there is a limit to what one person can do. But the answer is...
By Jena McGregor | September 2, 2010; 11:04 PM ET | Comments (65)
Simply sharing more about your team's status and direction is the best way to make people feel better about their jobs and their future, especially during times of uncertainty.
By Jena McGregor | August 31, 2010; 01:17 PM ET | Comments (2)
PostLeadership offers a few reads related to getting, keeping, and creating jobs. If you're so lucky to have one, enjoy it over the next couple of days, something employed folks like to call the weekend.
By Jena McGregor | August 27, 2010; 02:05 PM ET | Comments (0)
Overconfidence is a natural affliction of existing leaders. Those already in power believe they can win on their records, and that voters have better memories than they really do. They are fooled by their own success, overly assured about their position, and fall victim to that unfortunate byproduct of power: hubris.
By Jena McGregor | August 25, 2010; 10:43 AM ET | Comments (10)
Stop me if this sounds like your place of work. On any given assignment, there's at least three people to whom you report. Meetings are filled with more people in management than people doing the work. And when it comes time for downsizings, the bottom 80% gets deeply slashed while the top 20% is barely touched.
By Jena McGregor | August 13, 2010; 10:56 AM ET | Comments (5)
One left his post without a public fight, albeit with more than $35 million in his pockets. The other is battling the charges, setting up a potentially historic public trial. But both leaders would like their reputations back, thank you very much.
By Jena McGregor | August 11, 2010; 11:43 AM ET | Comments (4)
In my mind, what matters most is what the government job demands, and whether the CEO's personality and experience is a match for it.
By Jena McGregor | August 3, 2010; 11:42 AM ET | Comments (2)
If Warren is selected as nothing more than an interim head, her leadership skills will count most. In that role, she'll need to set the initial tone of the agency and lure the best and brightest staff members. But if she gets the nomination and is forced to execute on her vision, her management chops will be needed to succeed in the long run.
By Jena McGregor | July 20, 2010; 11:17 AM ET | Comments (9)
The enormous size of the intelligence is beyond the scope of mere mortals to manage. Too big to lead is too big to fail, and we all know where that got us.
By Jena McGregor | July 19, 2010; 09:43 AM ET | Comments (1)