Although Barak Obama’s lack of management experience was an
election issue, his conduct since his victory provides an excellent case study
in how to deal with a classic management problem.
The question for managers at all levels – from the CEO of
the USA to the owner of a small business – is whether to build a team around
experienced people or to bring in new people with fresh ideas.
The correct answer is that an experienced manager can
benefit from having fresh people around him, but a relatively inexperienced
leader should follow the example of Shakespeare’s Henry V by having more grey
hairs among his counsellors.
So the President-Elect is quite right to appoint familiar
faces from the administrations of Presidents Clinton and George W Bush as his
key subordinates. Of course, this goes against his campaign theme of “Change”,
but he has calculated – again, correctly – that he has enough political capital
at the moment to get away with it.
Indeed, there are encouraging signs that Obama the President
may be distancing himself from many of the less presidential things said by
Obama the Candidate. There are said to be “signals” that he may delay the
imposition of more taxes on higher earners...
He obviously read our blog on the subject last week.
His only false note so far is his proposed “stimulus
package” to “create 2.5 million jobs”. Democratic Presidents like this sort of
thing because it looks like what FDR did – ignoring the fact that FDR’s
National Recovery Administration and Works Progress Administration soon became
by-words for mismanagement.
President-Elect Clinton proposed a similar “stimulus
package” in 1992, but the idea was quietly dropped when the realities became
clear to him in office.
Obama’s perceptive pragmatism over the last month gives
grounds for hope that he will eventually do the same. Things always look different
when viewed from that desk in the Oval Office.