October 8, 2008
Obama the FacilitatorBy Joseph Rosenberger
How anyone can seriously consider this exasperatingly unqualified Candidate Obama for President of the United States has confounded me. Until now. Now I get it. And now I know why he scares the wits out of me. The reason is a little nuanced - small but powerful, in the way a tiny rudder can control a supertanker.
Candidate Barack Obama is not an executive, by profession, but a facilitator. And therefore, he is not fit to be Commander-in-Chief.
We must insist our Presidents be executives, not facilitators. The differences between the two are subtle, yet profound. I know of which I speak: I have personally facilitated hundreds of problem solving teams and staff studies toward successful and sometimes less successful objectives in a Fortune 50® company and internationally for over fifteen years. Yet I'm not an executive (not counting the care of my personal reputation) and I know why I should not be one. I'm delightfully confident at the craft of facilitation; satisfied with a humble amount of influence it brings over time, but I am not made of that executive mettle. And neither is Candidate Obama.
A great facilitator is one who influences a group from the outside, not the inside. Facilitators shepherd and guide the process of completing a task, but are never accountable for the work itself; something like a consultant, if you like. They are never personally accountable for work and deliverables produced by those actually accountable, where executives stake their lives every day. This is where Candidate Obama's "It's not about me!" nonsense comes from. Candidate Obama has never held an executive position over anything much grander than a Senate staff (and that only recently), until this campaign. But he is never at a loss for words about process and direction and potential and hope and change and facilitator-speak.
Make no mistake; Candidate Obama is a compelling facilitator. While articulate and sure of which he speaks, he does not speak with an owner's voice, with that executive timbre; he merely pretends at it. Like a good facilitator, he's quick to suggest what might be done, yet he will not direct who shall do what -- unless it is essentially riskless; until the tough decisions have been floated and settled.
This is exactly what a facilitator must do. As soon as the facilitator inserts himself or herself into the give-and-take of the group, the facilitator's objectivity and neutrality is compromised, and his influence collapses. By joining the group, he would create a conflict of interest with the role of objective facilitator.
This is why Candidate Obama will be seen with problem solvers, but never within the struggle itself, as happened in the famous melt-down meeting over the credit crisis bail-out in the Oval Office. There are, essentially, no executives in the Senate, and that may be why so few make good Presidents, and why Governor Palin, an excellent journeyman executive, outshines the three senators on the major party tickets.
A facilitator fails if his or her methods do not show progress. An executive loses everything if promises are not kept, work is not completed, and customers and markets are not satisfied. Hear the echo of this in Candidate McCain, who led a flight squadron in the Navy: "I would rather lose an election than lose a war."
Despite long experience as a governor, President Clinton personified the facilitator. His ability to triangulate an issue by offering his understanding of both sides, while placing himself as a facilitator, above both. He would usually seize command of a problem's story line as a compassionate commentator or pundit. Yet, as a commander-in-chief executive, he was an absolute, unqualified disaster - leaving us a broken military, a footloose Bin Laden, a sexually preyed upon subordinate employee, and a profoundly compromised Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (whose chickens have come home to roost!).
A facilitator talks of how the buck should stop somewhere, and may cajole someone to step up; the executive looks you in the eye and says, as President Truman decisively declared, speaking of himself, personally -- "The buck stops here." Has Candidate Obama ever taken responsibility for the failure of the $150 million dollar Chicago Annenbergh Challenge to improve Chicago Schools, and effort he led as Chairman of the Board.
Candidate Obama's behavior is that of classic facilitation, such as voting present hundreds of times in the Illinois state house, instead of yea or nay. An American executive, comfortable in the shoes of personal accountability, would never even think of voting present.
This is why Candidate Obama is so dangerous as an executive in charge of foreign policy; it is just like a facilitator to be willing to talk to this madman Akmadinijad without preconditions (noting here words matter). A facilitator cannot take sides; an executive is a side -- the embodiment of the side that pursues their objectives without distraction. T
This ingratiating, facilitative behavior is exactly what Candidate Obama did in his first debate with Candidate McCain, when he quickly agreed with the his winner-take-all opponent, Candidate McCain, some eight times. The executive, Candidate McCain looked and focused on us -- behind the camera, and gave his opponent no quarter. Because the McCain campaign made a TV ad mocking Obama's repeated statements that he agreed with McCain, the second debate saw no such statements.
One does not facilitate peace with an enemy; one contains the enemy by threatening its survival, by all means necessary, until they stay cooped up, unconditionally surrender or get replaced. One does not facilitate a pointless diplomacy with those who mean to bury us; one chooses the best terrain to fight and destroy them.
If you want executive leadership, look for someone who has experience running things, like mayors, governors, and entrepreneurs. They direct. They demand completed staff work. They surround themselves with people who have a proven record of getting things done. This is precisely why Governor Palin has sparked our excitement -- a true executive voice, adored by her state.
Sadly, Candidate Obama is categorically unqualified by this measure, and Candidate McCain can't make up his mind about it.