It seems to be a distinct possibility.
The President of the United States is the culture’s most powerful, visible and influential leader. Like it of not, he is also a role model for leadership and management across society. He has the most responsibility, the largest organization to oversee, and the most vital interests at stake. The management and leadership techniques he uses necessarily set a standard others, especially young, inexperienced, aspiring leaders and management, will be encouraged to emulate.
What are they learning? To begin with, they are learning to accept a startlingly low standard for “confidence.”
The President has now issued two statements that he has “confidence” in the Secret Service. The assessment has special significance because the health and safety, the very lives, of the President, his wife, his young children and his staff is in the Secret Service’s hands, and the agency would seem to have demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of meeting any reasonable expectations or trust. We know that the agents are barely trained, and that they lack professionalism and self discipline. We know that agents availed themselves of prostitutes in South America, and got drunk on duty in Amsterdam. We know that a gunman fired at least seven bullets that struck the upstairs residence of the White House in 2011, aided by a botched Secret Service response, and that just this month a deranged fence-jumper got into the residence and was running amuck before he was stopped.
The Service’s statement on that incident was jaw-dropping, saying agents “showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with” an intruder who could have had a bomb or deadly intent. How could this President, any President, any leader, any manager, have “confidence” in a security force under these circumstances, with its own management displaying such a bizarre attitude?
Well, I don’t know. It’s a brand new paradigm, the most lassez faire, gentle, kind,empathetic and understanding, hands-off, no-fault, no standards, no accountability leadership style I have ever seen at any management level higher than a lemonade stand. I’m sure many members of the public, especially those who goof off at their jobs, steal supplies, file fake reports, arrive to work stoned, never finish assigned tasks and think they have a right to keep their jobs and paychecks no matter how useless they are, would love to have Obama as a boss. Such a boss would express confidence in the most obviously inept and untrustworthy employee imaginable, and apparently mean it. And never, never fire him.
On March 26, 2013, the President appointed Julia Pierson to be the twenty-third Director of the Secret Service. She became the first female director of the agency, and should have become the first female director of the agency fired, if not immediately after a fence-jumper got to take an unscheduled tour of the White House, then two seconds after she praised agents for not shooting him dead before he got inside. At least, that’s what would happen under the competent leadership standards and effective management standards established by millions of successful leaders over many centuries. But Obama knows better.
It isn’t just the Secret Service, of course. Nobody was fired for the astounding ACA website disaster. Nobody at the State Department was fired after the Benghazi tragedy. Nobody at the IRS has been held accountable for that agency’s political machinations and breaches of the public trust. Nobody was fired following the “Fast & Furious” debacle. On the latest “60 Minutes,” we heard the President state that U.S. intelligence, particularly the NSA, had dangerously misestimated both the strength of ISIS and the ability of Iraqi forces to contain them. The NSA is headed by the same James Clapper who was at the top of the chain of command responsible for allowing a low-level tech employee named Edward Snowden to abscond with classified documents and data, who authorized illegal wiretaps domestically and abroad, and who lied to Congress. He still has his job, because the President undoubtedly has “full confidence” in him, too. Then we have John Brennan, the CIA chief. He lied to the Senate and violated the law. Guess what the President said in after all of this came to light. Yup: Brennan still has his “full confidence.”
The old leadership model for any organization with a serious mission, be it nation, agency, corporation, or army, has been “Do the job right, do it well, do it ethically; take responsibility for your failures, learn from your mistakes, don’t undermine your boss or weaken the trust of your subordinates, and expect to be relieved of your position if you don’t.” President Obama, an amateur leader who feels that he knows better than all the leaders who have gone before him, has provided the United States a new model based on loyalty, forgiveness, endless second chances, unbreakable trust regardless of performance and facts, and the rejection of the once-critical ethical value of accountability.
What will the future hold for our society if Obama’s new management model takes hold in the United States? Experience and common sense suggests that the consequences will make the tragic fiasco of the Obama Administration look like a mild case of the sniffles.
Graphic: Dark Moon
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