[February 16, 2014] Good leadership means building productive teams and organizations by ensuring the best and brightest leaders are ready for the job. Leaders are a reflection of that organization and its senior executive leadership. Yet, it appears that the U.S. has embarrassed itself over several recent nominations to ambassadorships1 (a senior leadership position).
The nominee to be ambassador to Norway, for example, said at his confirmation hearing that Norway’s Progress Party was a discounted “fringe.” Apparently the nominee was mixing this up with his American left-progressive politics; the political party is part of Norway’s center-right coalition. This resulted in some indignation from Oslo.
There are a number of news articles2 out recently about some of these embarrassing episodes during the confirmation hearings held a couple of days ago. What is really troublesome is that this is only one case of many embarrassments from the hearings.
Reminds me of when I visited one of the Caribbean nations last year and spoke with an Ambassador. I had the opportunity to ask the Ambassador what she considered to be the top three strategic interests of the United States in the Caribbean.
One of the top three was “climate change.” Since I remain unclear exactly as to what that means as a practical matter, I was most interested to understand how it could translate into policies for U.S. interaction there. The Ambassador said: “I do not know exactly what climate change is about, but that it is very important and we are making progress.” Of course, this was a nonsense answer.
Ambassadorships are traditionally used as political payback worldwide by most countries. I would hope that the U.S. at least gives them a little education before they go before a confirmation hearing and embarrass both themselves and the United States.
Leadership lessons should be taken at any opportunity, even when we see what not to do. This is one of those times.
 For a good short history on Ambassadors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambassador
 A February 14th Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-ambassador-nominees-prompt-an-uproar-with-bungled-answers-lack-of-ties/2014/02/14/20fb0fe4-94b2-11e3-83b9-1f024193bb84_story.html