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Obama Must Launch Offensive Against Gridlock

If the president decides to recommit as the nation's CEO he must be first to admit error. Sure, many are deserving of blame, but the leader must initiate the new relationship. This behavior is quite common among the world's best leaders. Jim Collins, author of "Good to Great," defines the highest level of leadership as Level 5. He defines Level 5 leadership as a "blend of personal humility and professional will." Great leaders willingly admit error. Rebuilding trust requires both sides to acknowledge their part of the problem and commit to new behaviors. "But, he hit me first!" isn't an acceptable excuse, even for children.

Step 2: Fire Pelosi and Reid

The two congressional leaders -- Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid -- crafted and delivered a win. When it comes to rallying a party-line vote, both have proven their worth. But neither was able to deliver any congressional Republican votes. And that will be the key leadership skill if November elections alter the liberal-conservative balance.

Different leadership styles are appropriate for different leadership situations. Leadership literature calls this "situational leadership." In the 1980s, Lee Iacocca was able to pull together a warring management and union at Chrysler to bring the company back from the brink. Several years later he was pushed out. Iacocca was a turnaround master, but average at a company that required operational excellence. Success in one situation doesn't ensure success in another.

Step 3: Create a Joint Change Vision

In business, there is a fine line when partnering with unions. CEOs look for high-level buy-in and on specific projects, but typically don't include union leaders on day-to-day leadership teams. Engaging Republicans in high-level planning and for the next two years will greatly improve relationships and increase the probability of initiative passage.

Step 4: Renew the Congressional Operating Model

Every organization needs periodic renewal, a time to analyze its operations and commit to performance improvements. The process begins with an appointed leadership asking foundational questions. For Congress these might include:

  • How should Congress operate? What must it deliver and how?
  • What are the roles of congressional leaders and representatives? How and when should they be measured and how should those measures be publicized?
  • What behaviors are acceptable and not acceptable and what are the sanctions for inappropriate behavior?

Create a bipartisan team with a full-time mandate to review and renew Congress' operating model (i.e., how do things get done around here). Go process by process to determine current state and opportunities for improvements. There will be many opportunities to redesign processes, procedures and policies. Schedule milestone dates readouts with the press for the next 12 months. Even a small change in congressional performance would create a tremendous positive impact on the country. Make this initiative equal to health care in importance.

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