The Presidential Dance Off

Will Obama Win?

If you're following the American election, and if you're not - how in the world are you avoiding it? Then you know that, at this moment Obama and Mc Cain are locked in a dead heat to the finish line - with Obama in the lead. It's been fascinating to listen to them both talk about the changes they will make if elected.Both are promising sweeping, multi-issue, complex, radical change. Both are handing out assurances for a better life; greater prosperity, increased safety, a revolutionized health care system, bolstered infrastructures and sounder financial markets, and they - so they say - will make it happen. They both guarantee bold - yet compassionate - leadership and, both have 'plans'. Sounds great - doesn't it?

But, beneath the veneer of political boasting lurks the reality of how change actually happens. When one of the contenders finally steps into the White House they will be faced with the sobering truth - change ain't for sissies.

Change happens one conversation at a time and the new President will need a savvy Transition Team of people dedicated to reaching out to the larger group; men and women who see themselves as agents of the change - willing to be the Commander and Chief's eyes and ears on the ground, feeding information back about how the change is really going and make recommendations for course corrections. No man, or woman, is an island and no one person can pull off this magnitude of change alone.

This time next month, the waiting will be over. In the meantime, what are you doing to get your team ready for their changes? Do you have a Transition Team in place? The Leaders Summit is a comprehensive learning program designed to you with the techniques and skills to make good on your promises for transformation.

To activate an entire nation like the US towards change means budgets to analyze - and then slash, wars to retreat from - or finish and literally millions of ordinary people to mobilize. It will require overhauling complex systems, engaging former archenemies and significantly disrupting the day-to-day routine of literally millions of businesses and households. And that's only the process for inside the US boarders - the ripple effect out to the rest of the world will be, well HUGE.

This kind of audacious transformation will require a willingness to cooperate never seen before; it will mean a giving up of values held dear by many who will cling to the status quo, even if the current state of affairs is crumbling. In short, the mammoth change that both men are promising will be an enormous undertaking, requiring the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and - you guessed it - time. Lots of time.

There will be no quick fixes for the US regardless of whom the voters choose. Those of you leading teams and organizations know this. You understand the challenges you face when trying to get a group of people to change - imagine a whole country! Now, both these men believe that this kind of change is doable, but that it will take the commitment of 'every American' to make it happen. Well, not quite. How do you get wholesale commitment from everyone in a change effort? You don't. And, you don't need to.

But what the new President will have to do, just like any other change leader, is gain the support of a key portion of the electorate; a group fiercely committed to seeing the change happen.

Is the Sky Falling?

It's been just a few days since US President George 'W' Bush faced cameras and made an impassioned plea for his government to approve a plan to bail Wall Street out of its current financial crisis. The severity and complexity of the mess appears to be unprecedented, the global economic impact uncertain and the emotional toll mounting as Joe Public tries to make sense of it all.

Affected business leaders across all industries are asking themselves, what do I do with this? How will I make good choices, handle my own anxiety, fear and anger over the losses and, how can I lead my people now?

John Holt said it best, "The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don't know what to do".

Leaders are telling me they feel a bit like the King in the famous children's story Chicken Little. That story opens with Henny-Penny just minding her own business when she's suddenly hit on the head. She doesn't see it coming, doesn't know what it was, has never experienced it before and so concludes that the sky was falling. She runs to tell her friends: Ducky Daddles, Cocky Locky, Goosey Poosey and Turkey Lurkey and they decide that the only rational response to such a catastrophe, is to go tell the King. They get side tracked by Foxy Loxy, outsmart him, escape and finally reach the King. When they inform the King the sky is falling, he looks up, sees that indeed it isn't and tells them everything will be ok, and that they should go back to the barn.

In crisis, or perceived crisis, people want a King like Chicken Little had. People want their leader to tell them it's going to be all right - whether the leader knows it will be or not is irrelevant; they want to hear it anyway.

Inherent within every crisis are both Danger & Opportunity. We don't have to look far to be reminded of the dangers, just tune into CNN; they're trotting them out in graphic detail, every hour on the hour. Near the end of every broadcast they tell viewers, in a variety of ways, to - be afraid, be very afraid. Broadcasters remind us that, after all, this could only be the beginning of the fallout - the worse is surely yet to come.

Riveting television, bad leadership.

During times of uncertainty, leaders need to be realistic about outcomes, and empathetic towards people. They need to talk optimistically about what they do know and sparingly about what they don't know.

And, the opportunities - what about them? They're there - they always are. Tucked in behind the clouds of doom are always little streaks of sunlight; rays of hope, voices that are calm and optimistic. Do you hear them? Are you one of them? Can people count on you for a sensible, thoughtful approach? It's tough - but doable - to remain grounded when the ground is shaking.If you need some help to navigate the changes you're in - call me.