quiet leadership

I’ve heard and read so much criticism of Obama’s leadership. He is accused of being weak, indecisive, naïve, misguided.

Frankly, I admire the man for his collaborative style and behind the scenes, quiet leadership. I’d rather we save the “who’s got the bigger balls” approach for the action movies I confess to enjoy.

There’s something to be said for a leader who has the humility to allow space for others to share the collective burden of work, limelight and influence. I have seen Obama do this time and again with Congress (and specifically with the GOP) during negotiations. I’ve seen him do it on behalf of the United States with our foreign policy (witness Libya).

There is a concept in anarchy that’s puzzled over and often misunderstood. Anarchy means without ruler. It is assumed by most that this means without leader, ergo chaos. But a cooperative, non-hierarchical collective does not have to be chaotic. I’ve watched collective groups struggle against leadership, one person trying to squelch their own natural leadership skills in an area, and another person showing offense at someone’s taking charge. The issue is the power dynamic created by the existence of a leader. Who imagines a leader’s role being dissolved? We tend to think that with a leadership role comes power, power that’s irrevertable. And that’s the problem. Imagine instead an organic, natural process whereby a leader emerges in a situation, and then stands down, with power dissolved, when the situation is over.

Now, I’m not saying that Obama is an anarchist. I’m not even sure he’s a socialist, accusations to the contrary. What does seem clear to me is that he has a leadership style that neither politico nor citizenry recognize and value. In the United States, we are used to — and respond to — the “who’s got the bigger balls” style.

I suspect that the value and influence of this president to the character of this country, of all the presidents I’ve witnessed, will be recognized by future historians to be far greater than do most present-day folk.

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2 Responses to quiet leadership

  1. laura says:

    I agree wholeheartedly and while he has had to adapt a little during this election cycle I admire his thoughtfulness.

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