Leadership Lessons: Obama’s Pelican Moment

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George Washington got it.  When battle was nearing, he could stay safely in his tent or mount up and get in front of his troops to lead them.  It was emotional moment when the leader and his troops connected.  Can you imagine Washington telling his generals to cross the Delaware River and march to Trenton while he stayed warm by the fire in his headquarters and sipped Christmas Day brandy?

Tom Peters and Robert Waterman had their own take on leadership in their classic corporate study published in 1982, “In Search of Excellence,”  when they observed strong corporate leaders got out from behind the desk to walk the floor and engage line employees.  While not as heroic as Washington’s battlefield leadership, Management by Walking Around (MBWA) was recognized as a powerful means for business leaders to not only be seen by their employees, but as a powerful means to learn from them to strengthen leadership insights to create a stronger organization.  This process creates emotional cement.

By the way, we believe in these practices: You manage your stock portfolio; you lead your team. 

The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is not going away, perhaps for years. On the President’s fourth trip to the Gulf, we have been waiting for that one moment when, just for a moment, time  would stand still and every school kid in the U.S. would become emotionally connected not only to the suffering of the people and the wildlife of the Gulf,  but to the  great task at hand to recover and rebuild a part of our country that we are losing each and every day.

President Obama needs no coaching from us.  But if he were our client, we’d tell him to pick up one of those oil-drenched pelicans and spend an hour washing it off.  He’d get it. We’d all get it. We’d all understand. We’d all be emotionally connected in the same way all our school kids are who wish they could be down in the Gulf now lending a hand, saving the pelicans, making a difference.  Oh, he’s heading back to Washington? Maybe we’ll get that pelican moment next time. Maybe.

Rick and Christina

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