Sunday, December 27, 2009

Obama Does Not Know How To Be A CEO

Years ago, Bill Gates once remarked that he had to be careful about comments he made to Microsoft employees. He said he once idly asked an employee and how a particular project was going and that caused million of Microsoft dollars to be diverted to that project.

Obama has no clue as to what it means to be a chief executive. The shambles of the two health care reform bills that we are now facing and trying to reconcile is a function of his lack of leadership as a CEO. Leaders know that people who work for them take a boss's comments as a directive, a guide to acceptable behavior and future worthwhile endeavors. Leaders need to provide some clarity as to specific product and service objectives, which for Obama are not just broad legislative agendas but the major items included or excluded from the bills. Otherwise, the ending legislation will reflect a Congressional power struggle chaotic mess. He needs to give Congress effective anchor points for inclusion in major legislation even if it upsets some of his constituency.

His glibness only undermines his clarity, creates an atmosphere of uncertainty, generates confusion about goals and politicizes the internal workings of the organization.

Whether we look at the dysfunctional specifics of the stimulus bill or the House and Senate health care bills, there is an obvious lack of goal orientation and effective supervision. Health care is passing because it is a 60-year goal of the Democratic Party. Very little, if any of the health care or stimulus legislation is a result of Obama. After Bush, with the severity of the recession and very high unemployment, passing safety net social programs, such as effective stimulus or health care for all, should have been a piece of cake and a slam-dunk. Instead, the stimulus law and the health care bills are ineffectual at achieving their intended societal goals and atrocities of the legislative process. If anything, his statements about not taxing the middle class or employer health benefits and his protectiveness of union Cadillac health plans have only made the entire legislative process more difficult for Congress and potentially hinder his achievement of universal, affordable health care.

Obama's leadership stops at rubric. Title a bill 'health care reform' or 'stimulus', leave his union pals alone and he is satisfied. CEOs that manage corporations as Obama manages the US, quickly find they lose market share, profits and their jobs through bankruptcy or replacement.

The President needs to provide clear goals with some legislative specificity. He needs to make tough choices and hold Congress and his subordinates accountable. He has to mature and become a leader quickly or his and the Democratic Party's popularity will continue to decline. Leadership is more than espousing nice statements about hopeful results. It is about making tough decisions and setting specific, realistic, achievable targets with the agreement of some and the disagreement of others of your loyal fans. If all your supporters agree with you, you are not making the tough choices you need to make. Pleasing everyone in your circle never gets tough things accomplished satisfactorily.
Above is the comment I posted on the Wall St. Journal, "Tax Audits Are No Laughing Matter: A president shouldn't even joke about abusing IRS power" by Glenn Harlan Reynolds. Reynolds' article is about President Obama's casual statements about asking the IRS to audit Arizona State University because it did not confer an honorary degree on the President.

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