[October 13, 2014] More senior leadership failures and successes who speak their mind Note. Wow, this week there were a number of senior leaders in the news, most of them making comments they probably wish they had another chance at making. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is back with another gaffe. I will resist the temptation to create a special section for him.
The following are the failures.
- Bruce Harrell, Seattle Washington councilmember, made comments referring to the city’s unanimous vote to celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day” on the same day as Columbus Day. He believes the city won’t be successful in its social programs and outreach until “we fully recognize the evils of our past.”1 This is an example of a politician saying things without much thought. Of course, the simple technique would have been to add this new holiday on some other day than Columbus Day, a federally recognized holiday. In addition, it would also have been a good idea not to make comments about “evil” and another ethnic group, in this case Italians, at the same time.
- Joe Biden, U.S. Vice President, speaking at The United States African Leaders Summit said “There’s no reason the nation of Africa cannot and should not join the ranks of the world’s most prosperous nations in the near term …”2 Of course we all know that Africa is a continent and not a nation. More importantly, he is implying that Africans are somehow deficient in their cultures for not keeping up with the Europeans economically – as if this were the only measure of “prosperous”. For those who are thinking “why is he picking on the VP?” the answer is that his quotes are just easy pickings. There are actually websites dedicated just to his gaffes, so admittedly, I’m being a little unfair only in the sense that it’s easy.
- Special runner-up in the failure department is Tom L. Friedman, an American journalist, who wrote “ISIS operates just like an ‘invasive species’ in the world of plants and animals. It is not native to either the Iraqi or Syrian ecosystems. It never before grew in their landscapes.”3 When leaders communicate, it should be clear what they are saying. In this case, I’m a little apprehensive about the concept of an “invasive species.” Does he imply they are somehow out of their environment and therefore somehow extraordinary destructive? Regardless, a less nebulous way of expressing his disdain would have been better received.
And now for the list of successes.
- Leon Panetta, previous U.S. Secretary of Defense, said about President Obama that, “If he wants to be able to get the things done that he wants done, and I respect him for what he wants to get done, he has got to get into the ring. Everybody got to get in and fight to make sure that we do the right thing for the country.”4 One trait of a senior leader is to give sound advice and that is what Panetta is doing here when he gives his honest opinion on how to overcome gridlock in Washington.
- Sabah al-Karhout, Iraqi senior politician from Anbar province, issued a desperate plea for the U.S. to bring back ground troops to offset ISIL as it comes within striking distance of Baghdad.5 Al-Karhout is expressing the frustration he and his peers in the Iraqi government are experiencing due to the failure of the Iraqi army to hold back ISIS and the absence of serious help from the United States. ISIS has caused a crisis of monumental levels and al-Karhout is a leader who knows where the solution is and he is clearly telegraphing that strategy.
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[Note] Recall that my intent is to write enough about the issue at hand to have the reader see that this person failed or succeeded in meeting basic leader traits. All information occurred within the last week. Below are references to the above senior leader quotes.