“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”— Nelson Mandela
“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”— Peter Drucker
“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”—Lao Tzu
“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”—Stephen Covey
Following a successful career in physics for approximately 20 years, I have been a thirty year student, teacher and consultant in the traits and attributes of leadership and team development and the personal characteristics and skills necessary to be effective. Though I have developed courses and tools to help those (primarily) in companies to improve their effectiveness, I have often used the publications of others and personal experiences to serve as my guide or “mentors”. One of the most powerful of those authors for me has been Stephen Covey, who made his fame and fortune from the book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. Covey later published several books, but perhaps most noteworthy for this subject, “Principle Centered Leadership”.This brief article will focus on what I have learned directly (i.e. clinically) about leadership in the last thirty or more years and will show why Barack Obama does not have the “right stuff”. In fact, I am not only concerned that his lack of leadership ability will lead to a failed presidency but, in fact, a catastrophic failure from which the entire country will greatly suffer.
CHARACTER AND COMPETENCE IN LEADERSHP
I will begin this discussion with a bit of Obama’s history. He is, of course, a dark skinned man who had both white and black parents. His black African father was absent for essentially his entire life. He was raised by his white mother and white grandparents. Though his early adversaries tried to make a legal issue of where he was actually born, they missed the entire major issue. It was never about “nature”; it has always been about “nurture”. Barack Obama has learned to be a “white” man in dark skin. That is the whole history of his existence. He has been plagued with an identity problem. But he first arose to national fame with his book, “Dreams of My Father” (a black African) which sold enormous numbers of copies and provided a platform for his rise to political power. It is also noteworthy that the Democratic Party found this as their “solution” to achieve power again also. They decided this man provided them with their chance to put a black man in the White House; he also met the requirements of some very rich wealthy elite who knew he could be manipulated. Ralph Nader even spoke up with courage during the 2008 elections stating the fear that Obama would become an “Uncle Tom” for the corporations!
What are the leadership traits that Barack Obama has demonstrated? His background included an education at Harvard Law following earlier education at Occidental College (CA) and Columbia Univ. (NY). There has never been any record published of his performance at those schools but we have been regularly informed that he was President of the Harvard Law Review. We have also been continuously reminded that he was specializing as a Constitutional Lawyer at Harvard. It has been interesting that the Harvard Law School has been notoriously absent in commenting on Obama’s performance in the presidency regarding Constitutional issues. Are nearly all of the members of Harvard Law fearful of speaking out? So much for academic freedom; perhaps they’re most fearful of losing their grants from the federal government and corporate sponsors?
The basic ingredients of effective leadership as identified by Covey and others are CHARACTER and COMPETENCE. For at least three years or more, I have been making careful observations of both of these attributes in Obama. My firm conclusion is that he has serious deficiencies in both. Admitting that these are sometimes hard to separate, I will consider character first.Obama shows almost no real commitment to principles; his continued excuse is that he believes in “compromise”. Although one can easily be deceived by his “talk” one has to watch his “walk”. He does not do what he says he’s going to do and this pattern is habitually repeated.
Some concrete examples were listed here from a recent publication in “Thrive” written by Foster Gamble:“It is testimony to the true hierarchy of power depicted in this pyramid. Whether we believe Obama would have changed things if he could have, or that he was in on this deal from the start, the facts remain the same. Obama is carrying out virtually the same agenda as the Bushes. He kept Gitmo open and continues torture. He’s expanded wars, authorized drones, legalized indefinite incarceration and assassination (NDAA). He condones comprehensive electronic surveillance, IRS bullying and the covert arming of drug cartels (Fast and Furious). He hired architects of the economic implosion—Summers and Geithner—to supposedly fix the damage they themselves helped orchestrate. He hired a top executive from Monsanto, Michael Taylor, to be his “food safety czar” and now Walmart cheerleader, Jason Furman, to be his Chief Economic Advisor.”
The reference above to Gamble’s publication also contains an excellent video clip showing Obama now doing the opposite of what he said he would do in his campaign for the presidency in 2008. One can add much to this short paragraph above including an expansion of the surveillance of American citizenry with domestic spying of telephone calls and emails, greatly increased prosecution of whistle blowers, the hiring of the CEO of General Electric to do nothing regarding job creation, neglect of serious environmental issues, neglect of serious wealth/income inequities and most of the serious things he addressed or promised during his 2008 campaign.
Obama has been nearly “perfect” in saying one thing and doing almost exactly the opposite or nothing at all. I have previously labeled this as the “Obama Shuffle”–giving a shout to the “left “and jumping to the “right”, a dance step he has perfected. This has led to a greatly increased trust gap as an increasing number of his original loyalists have abandoned their support for him. One of the latest polls shows that only 35% of the population now trust Obama with the greatest decline of nearly 17% occurring with the younger voting age. Trust in leadership was discussed in this Forbes article published last year.
Thus, Obama has shown an enormous character deficiency. Most recently, he has also been chastised by the President of China, the President of Russia and the Prime Minister of Germany for supporting the abuses of the NSA in their surveillance and spying activities. Merkel even had to remind Obama (the “Constitutional” lawyer) of his duty to protect civil liberties. Recently, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald made appearances at the2013 Chicago Socialism Conference and made very pertinent critical comments regarding Obama’s hypocrisy on whistle blower, Edward Snowden, who released information regarding NSA blatant abuses of the Fourth Amendment. He is also following the same path as George Bush in justifying his international war mongering policies, claiming the possession and use by other countries with their “weapons of mass destruction.” No country posesses more weapons of mass destruction than the U.S. and no one has used more. He has brought shame to the Nobel Peace Prize he received in 2009 and it should be revoked.
His rhetoric has as its objective a method to distract attention from the real problems we face and direct attention to an unknown and unidentified enemy, particularly the “terrorists” who are waiting behind every tree and under every rock. It is, of course, a method of enhancing fear and the use of that characteristic to justify anything Obama and his manipulators want to do. As I have suggested several places, Obama is on a path to create an Orwellian state and put a permanent “Big Brother” in charge. Last October, I published a blog claiming he was engaging his “Weapons of Mass Distraction” and also creating an Orwellian nation.
The other major leadership characteristic Obama lacks is competence. This clearly overlaps the character factors but specifically includes building relationships with colleagues, choosing competent subordinates, delegating responsibilities, negotiation and conflict resolution skills, communicating clear objectives, measuring and reporting accurate and truthful facts and data, etc. Obama has continually demonstrated major deficiencies in all of these. Several have written about his inability to personally relate to key members of Congress even by failing to meet with them. He has demonstrated his inability to understand what “compromise” means in negotiations and has habitually capitulated or acquiesced in important matters rather than stick with principles which he had previously enunciated. This has been the case in both domestic and international affairs.He not only fails to take responsibility himself for any mistakes but fails to hold his subordinates responsible, claiming instead limited or no knowledge of mishaps.
His failure to acknowledge whether the objectives in the solutions to problems were met or not is legendary. As one specific example, witness the provisions of Obamacare which because of serious deficiencies in the law will almost certainly not meet the needs of people for “universal” coverage at affordable rates and limit cost increases of health coverage. Obamacare was a gift to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries; there was no public option designed to provide competition. From the nymag.com on July 3 (as this blog goes to press again): ”Yesterday evening, the Obama administration announced that it will delay for one year the “employer mandate,” which is the penalty on businesses with 50 or more employees who don’t provide insurance to their workforce. Naturally, this reactivated the Obamacare Train Wreck Doomsaying chorus.”
Some have even anticipated that a “train wreck” is on its way in 2014 and Obama and his advisors are undoubtedly writing the script to deny responsibility. Some large private companies are designing ways to shift more healthcare costs to the government (e.g. though Medicaid) by limiting employment to more part time employees and reducing their wages. This is effectively a way to increase the numbers of the working poor and remove people from the numbers of unemployed. A majority of the public appear to intuit or sense that there is a serious impending crisis ahead without even knowing the details of what is coming. Obama has done little or nothing to reassure the public. He only continues to pat himself on the back for producing a piece of crap and the Democratic Party cheers him on.
What are the observable consequences of a failed presidency described above? The primary one in the political and socioeconomic sectors is a great enhancement toward the creation of atotalitarian, fascist nation which is totally controlled by the big banks and corporate power. We clearly do not have any semblance of a representative democratic republic. Several authors have written about the dominant combination of corporate fascism and imperialism in recent months including Chris Hedges, Ralph Nader,John Pilger, Finian Cunningham and others. The image included here is from an Ebook by Jill Dalton. Obama has clearly enabled and supported these forces of corporate fascism. As a result, we clearly do not have any semblance left of a representative democratic republic. That is exhibited by a poll recently reported showing only 35% of the public trusting him and Congress receiving the lowest favorability rating in history of only 10%. As pointed out by pollsters, dictators in countries where we have removed the leaders through regime change have rated higher!
For several years, people have been describing our government in Washington as being dysfunctional. But that word is no longer adequate; it is on the way of becoming defunct (dead). Rampant fascism is like a spreading cancer; it is now near Stage IV in this country and without radical surgery Uncle Sam won’t survive. The creation of a Fourth Reich is well underway. That is a direct result of extremely poor leadership unlike what we’ve had from leaders periodically in our history before. In 1936 during the recovery from the Great Depression, FDR spoke out strongly against the fascist forces in this nation at a time when at least two countries in Europe were embracing it.
“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group.”–Franklin D. Roosevelt
And Obama is directly responsible for eroding our civil liberties through such acts as NDAA (indefinite detention), NSA spying, Drone attacks that even have killed Americans, etc. These are necessary measures to further the enhancement of a fascist nation. Perhaps soon he will be requesting that we will high step march in boots to salute him by shouting Sieg Heil.
When I was teaching a leadership class for adults about five years ago at the Stennis Space Center (MS), I used Obama as an example of a good leader purely based upon his speeches. I made a horrible mistake in judgment. I owe my students a sincere apology; I won’t easily make that mistake again. A person doing what they say they are going to do is a primary factor in building trust and necessary for a good leader. I no longer trust ANYTHING that Barack Obama says he is going to do. Some of my friends have told me that they cannot even stand to hear him speak any longer. As I said at the time of the 2010 midterm elections, I would not buy a used car from this man. In an article recently published, James Petras refers to Obama as the Master Con-man. Obama is totally unfit as a presidential leader and he has earned a great big “F” in my “leadership class”; the “incomplete” has been long removed!
The two party political duopoly has shown us clearly that Barack Obama is the “best” they can do in the electoral process even after spending billions of dollars. Isn’t it about time a majority in this country reject these two parties and recognize they are both incompetent and corrupt? Isn’t it about time we recognize nothing is going to change unless we commit to this? Isn’t it about time we accept the fact that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a definition of INSANITY?