In one of President Obama’s highest-profile days as America’s chief executive, all eyes were on how well he managed what was at times an acrimonious debate on health care. The Daily Caller talked to business and management experts about how he did as the man at the head of the table during his marathon public meeting.
“He’s very much what we could call in academic circles a transformative leader,” said Drumm McNaughton, chairman and chief executive of the Washington-based Institute of Management Consultants. “When you have a political environment like ours that has become so difficult because of polarization, you can see he’s the right leader for the right time.”
“And that’s coming from a lifelong Republican.”
Many experts pointed out the president’s tactfulness today.
“I’m sure he has his own agenda, but he doesn’t express it heartily,” said Betty Price, chief executive of Price Group and a management consultant in the leadership development area for 25 years. “He’s very conciliatory and engaging, and tends to be open to other people.”
“The interesting thing that the president does is that he’s very paced in his delivery, and that tends to give off more of a calming effect,” Price said.
“With these kinds of meetings in Washington it’s difficult because people need to leave their egos at the door. What you see Obama doing by cutting his remarks short, he’s looking at the outcomes and not grandstanding,” McNaughton said.
Others were warier.
“The conversation is full of people making the obligatory political points. The president is doing his thing and trying to hold court,” said Mark Haas, president of Bethesda-based Research and Organization Management. “The purpose of this is to have a discussion and for the American people to see the discussion.”
“If I were facilitating a session with a client in which there were contentious issues this would be the first step. They’ve deliberately gotten ridden of people like [New York Democrat] Anthony Weiner who are firebrands and whose inputs you want but maybe not in that environment,” Haas said. “So the mixture of invited people was appropriate, and people are behaving themselves in this environment … there’s not a lot of sighing or eye-rolling.”
Some business leaders pointed out that the problems of presidential leadership are different from almost any other role.
“They’re trying to influence people that they have no direct power over, so there is a lot of persuasion and negotiation, and yes CEOs use that … but they can fire people. And while I’m sure Obama would love to fire some members of Congress he doesn’t have that kind of power,” said David Brandford, a senior lecturer in leadership at Stanford’s graduate school of business.
Going into the meetings today many experts doubted whether Obama could maintain a civil tone and productive pace throughout the day.
“He’s showing flexibility in dealing with a tough environment, he has a lot of humility compared to our prior president, in admitting that he does actually make mistakes, and showed he could change course,” said Paul N. Friga, Ph.D., author of the best-selling “The McKinsey Engagement: A Powerful Toolkit For More Efficient and Effective Team Problem Solving,” and professor at Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“One thing that he doesn’t appear to be doing which is really important in good leadership is enabling other people to win,” Friga explained. “I feel he wants to make this his show and his contribution instead of letting go a bit. It’s just as bad as the Republicans who say no to everything to make sure the Democrats lose.”
“Its important for Obama to let Republicans win a bit, not to make it look like he’s the hero, but to say that those are good ideas, and to better understand someone else perspective is always a good idea.”
Friga added that he would have liked to see some independent third parties brought in for consultation, possibly a panel of international experts who’s countries have adopted different systems to talk about what has worked for their respective countries. “When you have two parties with opposing view points that go head to head, you don’t always get results.”
And what did the president do well?
“The president has done a good job as facilitator, of keeping people on the agenda. Also, he has this sort of halting and measured way of talking that is akin to when someone lowers their voice and it makes you want to lean in and listen.”
Despite what was largely anticipated to be a day of grandstanding, there were some positive notes.
“It’s definitely more than political theater — it’s been run very well, the culture and tempo are right, the respect is right. I would be pleased if I were running a board meeting that was going this well,” said Haas.
Contact Aleksandra at: ak[at]dailycaller[dot]com..