Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Obama's New Transparency

It looks like President Obama missed one of the basic leadership lessons, so let's run through it again.

If all your friends are jumping out of their skins imploring you to show some anger, your subsequent display of anger will look fake, forced, and theatrical. It will make you look like a follower, not a leader. What else would you look like when you are following directions?

Worse yet, you risk looking like a marionette. Even worse than that, you start looking like a marionette at that mortifying moment when the audience sees that someone else is pulling your strings.

Call it a moment of transparency, when people see through the ruse and the imposture, when everyone discovers that you are really not up to the job.

So, here's the second leadership lesson. When you take advice from film directors and drama critics, from Spike Lee and Frank Rich, then you do not even know what your job is. The presidency is not theater; America is not a stage; and the president is not just another starring role.

For those who still clong to their hope the moment of transparency occurred yesterday when President Obama appeared on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and tried to rationalize his leadership of the Gulf oil crisis with these, now famous, words: "And I don't sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."

It's an astonishing statement. It takes your breath away. For one, the group of experts Obama has been talking to has not included the CEO of British Petroleum. Minor lapse, that. For another, what kind of leader thinks that exercising authority involves knowing "whose ass to kick."

Where to begin with this hopeless verbal muddle? When you have the time and the leisure to prepare a statement showing you at your best, why not use the White House speechwriters, and let them fashion something that seems coherent.

In a sentence Obama dispenses with leadership by persuasion and leadership by example. He reduces leadership to kicking ass... a vulgar expression that suggests that leaders force other people to do what they want them to do.

So much for the composed and confident leader who was going to lead the ship of state into the darkness of an uncertain future. And so much the cool, calm, collected leader who dazzled the nation by seeming to keep his head when the financial crisis broke.

Apparently, all of that cool was simply a ruse, a convenient way to cover up the fact that he didn't have a clue.

Worse yet, when you show that you are not in charge of your own emotions-- because you seem to put them on and take them off on cue-- you are not going to persuade anyone that you are managing the crisis.

By now most people know that Obama is inexperienced and naive. He follows the entreaties of film directors because for him the presidency is theater, not reality.

Being inexperienced he did not earn his way to the top. He was vaulted to it, skipping over the intermediary steps, the ones that would have helped him to build confidence and character, that would have allowed him to learn how to lead by actually leading.

As someone who has been thrust into a role for which he had no real preparation, Obama must, in the depths of his soul, know that his presidency is an imposture. And the one thing that impostors fear more than anything is transparency. Not the kind of transparency that the White House touts as a governing philosophy, but the kind that allows people to see through the ruse and understand that it's all been staged.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Using your own words to describe those who voted for Obama just repeat --- "I fell in love with a mirage. The more I yearned for him, the more I invested in him, the more painful is the realization that the mask is all there is." I have been deceived by a sociopath myself, but at least I did not vote for Obama (I know, by definition therefore, I am a racist).