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Leadership Lessons from Building Team Obama (Part I)

Clinton ObamaWhen leaders assume new responsibilities, as President-elect Barack Obama will do on January 20, 2009 when he becomes the 44th President of the United States, it creates a valuable and unique opportunity to assemble a fresh leadership team.  All good leaders recognize this and take steps not to squander it. At the Presidential level, this is built into the process and valuable lessons can be learned by all leaders as it plays out in the media.

Here’s a CBS News video (Nov. 20, 2008) with Marcus Maybry of the New York Times running through some of strategy that President-elect Obama might be using as he assembles his team.

With the United States economy in a tailspin, two costly wars being waged and a national reputation at a shockingly low point, there is no doubt that President-elect Obama faces the most difficult set of circumstances of any American president in our lifetime. Understanding the challenges ahead, Obama has worked quickly to identify candidates and select members of his leadership team. In doing so he engages in a delicate balance between selecting the best person for the job, paying back those who’s support helped his get elected, potentially influencing those who might be rivals if left outside of the admistration and putting his own stamp on his Presidency. No where is this more evident than his reported choice for Secretary of State, former rival for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency, Senator Hillary Clinton. Here’s a MSNBC interview with Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek and author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White Housediscusses the pros and cons of nominating Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State with Keith Olbermann.

Good leaders are confident in their abilities, make strategic decisions and surround themselves with strong team members. They look for people different than themselves and for those whose skills will complement their own.  Selecting a recent formal rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, as his nomination for Secretary of State allows Obama to benefit from bringing aboard a globally recognized leader while keeping her “in the tent” thereby eliminating the opportunity for her to become a potential critic or political rival.  I believe that it’s a wise move but not everyone agrees, here are a couple solid dissenting opinions:

The Case Against Hillary Clinton by David Ignatius for The Washington Post – Nov. 17, 2008

4 Reasons Why Obama Shouldn’t Appoint Clinton by Michael Watkins in The Leading Edge for Harvard Discussion Leader Business Blogs.

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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Posted in General Leadership, Politics + Government.

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