Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.

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Faulty Fenty

Q: Adrian Fenty was hugely successful when he ran for mayor of Washington, D.C., four years ago, winning every precinct in the city. But now, voters say he's arrogant and doesn't listen, and he's lagging in several polls in advance of September's primary. Now Fenty is admitting his failings, and apologizing to voters. Can tigers change their stripes? And would you want him or her to, if it means watering down the original, well-received agenda?

It seems that D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has depended on a small circle of cronies who have given him bad advice. Their future paths and personal power were never aligned with Fenty's original agenda or what was best for D.C. Thus, Fenty is out of touch with his constituents and appears arrogant.

Many of the decisions coming out of his office have been arrogant in their approach and implementation. Several of his key leaders have had to explain and justify their actions after initial attacks in the media (questionable promises, arbitrary employment practices, suspicious contract awards, etc.).

The leadership lesson from Mayor Fenty's reign is obvious: Isolating yourself from the people and listening to advisers whose interests are not aligned with your vision can jeopardize your career.

Can Fenty's recent acknowledgement of making mistakes be trusted? He has spent four years behaving in a certain way and relying on a faulty team. Turning this around requires more than just "listening to the people."

For Fenty to change, he has to rebuild his supporting infrastructure. Weeks before the election, he is only doing what he did four years ago -- showing up on the doorsteps of D.C. residents. What new behaviors can he demonstrate? How has he grown and matured? What has he learned? Will he be using the same advisers? What is his vision for the next four years? What else besides "walking the streets" will he be doing to demonstrate a more participative and connected mayor-ship?

However, given the slate of candidates, it is hard to say whether Fenty is or is not the best candidate.

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  August 30, 2010; 2:41 PM ET  | Category:  Success and controversy Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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