I just finished watching Obama’s second inaugural address. My first reaction was: How do you get to be the poet who reads at the inauguration? (Go Richard Blanco!) My second reaction was, Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce really nailed it.
As a creativity and innovation researcher, I ask myself, is Barack Obama the kind of leader who fosters innovation in the executive branch? In Sunday’s New York Times, David Rothkopf spoke to this question in “Managing the Oval Office”. (Rothkopf is the publisher of Foreign Policy magazine.) I completely agree with what he says about how to lead:
Selecting a diverse team, creating a system in which ideas surface, listening to those ideas and then empowering others to put them into action are the cornerstones of good management–and of effective leadership.
No president can succeed unless he views his job as collaborative, as requiring the motivation and empowerment of a vast United States executive branch bureaucracy, as being in partnership with Congress, as benefiting from a broad and diverse group of advisers, as being the kind of undertaking that promotes creativity even if it means embracing unpopular or even unsuccessful ideas.
Rothkopf’s main point is that Obama is not this kind of president. He is blunt about both Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush:
Mr. Obama is a lousy manager. As chief executive he gets a “C”–and then only if graded on a curve [that takes into account how bad George W. Bush was].
I don’t have an opinion on the executive capabilities of either Obama or Bush; I don’t have the data to judge. But I wonder: Is it politically possible for any president to promote creativity by “embracing unpopular or even unsuccessful ideas”? Is the government doomed to forever be un-innovative?