Let me cut to the chase: It’s not about Mr. Obama’s capacity to show emotion beyond a clenched jaw that is missing. It’s about his capacity to lead. Just because someone has the title of leader doesn’t mean he/she is a leader.
In his media book tour for “The Promise”, author Jonathan Alter notes how impressed he was with Obama’s ability to manage the job – to synthesize the information and make an informed decision. This is no doubt due to his God given abilities. But it is also no doubt due to his educational training.
Mr. Obama is an excellently trained Harvard business manager. One of the attributes of a good manager is the ability to work for incremental improvements. Another is to be quite pragmatic. Mr. Obama has both qualities, so eloquently combined in Frank Rich’s commentary this past Sunday – incremental pragmatism. And therein lies the rub.
Being an excellent manager means espousing phrases like “don’t the perfect be the enemy of the good”. Stop and think about that phrase for a moment, then ask yourself if that is something that a leader would ever articulate as the centerpiece of his philosophy?
Perhaps a Chicago trained politician might hold such a core view. Certainly a well trained manager would. But a leader?
Then And Now
An earlier Harvard trained President once faced a crisis involving life and death global implications. Having learned his lesson in relying on the experts around him from a prior episode, this President bucked his experts and literally saved the world from a nuclear holocaust. In the process, a metamorphosis occurred in which the man became the leader he was destined to become. He became The President.
For this young man, it was lessons of The Bay of Pigs that taught him to vigorously question his experts and to chart an innovative solution both in process and outcome. He learned to lead. For the current young man occupying the White House, it is The Bay of Rigs that is testing his mettle.
Hopefully this latest crisis will enable Mr. Obama to find his gut, to transcend the moment, to articulate a world to be, to envision a man on the moon within this decade, to demand that Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall, to reassure that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, to lead. Then, Mr. Obama may, just may, become President Obama.
06-10-2010 9:01 AM
Vinny Catalano, CFA