The Burden of Leadership


On Friday Barack Obama had his first press conference (not pictured) following his historic victory (pictured) and stuck to the Drucker playbook. It is Drucker who has said that an executive can only focus on one or two priorities at a time. On Friday, President Elect Obama had only one priority—the flailing economy that continues to disappoint with each and every new number released. (Just this morning Circuit City declared bankruptcy and thousands of other jobs were cut at other large firms).  

Surrounded by his VP and new Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and a crowded team of economic heavyweights that included former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, President Elect Obama gave a sobering statement on the economy.

Just that morning a report was released that unemployment had increased to 6.5 percent, the highest since 1994. We now have lost 1.2 million jobs in 2008. The Dow has lost a stunning 5,000 points amidst the greatest collapse in confidence since the 1929 stock market crash.  

However, what struck me most about the press conference was not the substance but the demeanor of the newly elected president. Gone was care-free candidate Barack; in his place was President Elect Obama, whose future burdens and responsibilities weighed heavily enough on his mind to alter the very way he carried himself.

It was clear that he understood the enormity of the task ahead and what is expected of him. Peter Drucker felt that a man of character “sees leadership as responsibility rather than rank and privilege.” He also said “the new tasks demand that the manager of tomorrow root every action and decision in the bedrock of principles, that he lead not only through knowledge, competence and skill but through vision, courage, responsibility and integrity.” He added “when things go wrong—and they always do—they don’t blame others.”

Drucker also stated :”In the final analysis it is vision and moral responsibility that define the manager.” Only time will tell if Barack Obama can live up to Drucker’s vision of the ideal leader—one who acts in a way consistent with his bedrock principles—one who leads through moral courage and responsibility.  However, when it comes to an Obama administration, in which expectations soar as high as the rhetoric, vision and moral responsibility is only the cost of admission. What is expected of this new president—especially one who has already inspired so many millions—is results.

“Management,” said Drucker “must always, in every decision and action, put economic performance first. It can justify its existence and its authority by the economic results it produces.”

Perhaps there has never been a time in our country’s history in which economic results are so important to the future functioning of our republic. Drucker espoused those words in 1954—but they have never been more true than they are today.

Photo credit: CBS News



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