Leadership Lessons Obama and McConnell Should Learn


Imagine what it would be like to run your startup like a divided government. Approximately half the company would fervently execute your plans, even when they obviously made no sense. The other half would obstruct your recommendations, including those clearly in the company’s best interest.

Sound insane? Welcome to the next two years of American politics. A lame duck President and a divided government.

However, it doesn’t have to be two years of rancor and zero results. Divided governments, as well as divided corporations, have historically rallied behind strong leadership that emphasizes problem solving over demagoguery and infighting. For instance, Ronald Reagan’s party never held control of the House of Representatives during his presidency and Bill Clinton only had that luxury for two of his eight years in office.

President Obama, Senate Majority leader-to-be McConnell and House Speaker Boehner would all be well served to internalize the following leadership aphorisms. Although the sources of this wisdom held widely different political opinions, but they all shared the fundamental understanding that a true leader represents all the members of their organization, not just those with whom they agree.

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1.  “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

John Kennedy, US President

2. “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

Winston Churchill, UK Prime Minister

3. “Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer! We must not let that happen here.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, US Civil Rights Activist

4. “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

Max DePree, US Entrepreneur

5. “I am a strong individualist by personal habit, inheritance, and conviction; but it is a mere matter of common sense to recognize that the State, the community, the citizens acting together, can do a number of things better than if they were left to individual action.”

Theodore Roosevelt, US President

6. “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, US Author and Philosopher

7. “They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong.”

Ronald Reagan, US President

8. “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.”

Arnold H. Glasow, US Author

9. “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Civil Rights Activist

10. “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.”

Andrew Carnegie, US Entrepreneur

11. Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”

Peter Drucker, US Author

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

John Greathouse

John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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