It’s The Leadership Stupid!

Those of us who have enjoyed significant leadership responsibilities know the drill. Yes, you’re responsible for everything but you can’t keep your fingers on everything. The attempt to be involved in everything everywhere is foolishness so you seek to create a culture that can identify big issues, creates the expectation for honesty and accountability and insures that everyone knows that there are situations where the organizational chart simply does not apply; communication applies.

In my case a part of the leadership culture was; “if a mistake is made, if something blows up, if the numbers turn bad, I better hear about it before anyone else, and I better hear about it immediately”! If I have to wait for a month end report to know what’s happening they’ll be hell to pay. People were fired for not satisfying that expectation. It was not the mistake that got them fired it was, as it always is, the instinct to cover it up or minimize its importance.

Assuming Mr. Biden is correct and that “we” did not have direct information about the Benghazi horror even in the aftermath of the Congressional hearings which indicated clearly that the administration did know about the security situation; so what? The fact of not knowing, of not having a culture in place that would have delivered the critical information to the President is a leadership failure of massive proportions. By extension the same applies to the Secretary of State.

For the President to have then tripped off to Las Vegas in search of campaign cash is also a demonstration of the dearth of leadership that appears to be the Achilles heel of this President. Many warned of a lack of experience surrounding candidate Obama, the holes in the resume were manifest; chief amongst them leadership experience. Effective leaders know that a combination of words, decisions and most importantly, actions is what delivers the important messages to their organizations.

Bart Giamatti, former President of Yale University and Major League Baseball Commissioner offered a definition of leadership that guided me for decades; I paraphrase. “Management is the organizing of expertise to accomplish tasks, it is a technical exercise. Leadership, however, is a moral exercise; it’s what defines the execution of those tasks. Leadership illuminates vision and defines the moral center of the organizations culture.”

Where is the moral center in the administration if Benghazi is illustrative? Why do we have campaign operatives addressing the Benghazi question? No Secretary of State, she’s off to Peru, no high ranking national intelligence leaders, no Director of National Intelligence, no CIA Director, no National Security Council officials on the Sunday shows. We get campaign functionaries David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs. Is David Axelrod the moral center of the administration, or perhaps the fact challenged Stephanie Cutter?

Britt Hume went to the heart of the matter as he held his colleague Mr. Wallace to account over the Susan Rice appearance. “Where do the requests for Sunday show guests go?” Answer, the White House! That simple question put the Susan Rice performance in its proper context, the request went to the White House and the sycophantic Ms. Rice performed as directed. The White House was right in the middle of the ‘video’ excuse. Perhaps it was the President who directed the appearance, perhaps not.

When viewed within a ‘leadership’ context exactly how doesn’t matter. What matters is the idea that the ‘video’ excuse was viewed as the first, best option by the President’s organization. We now know that the ‘video’ had little to nothing to do with the attack on Benghazi.

This example of leadership, as the definition of a moral center is, really, all we should need to know!