In April of 2008, an article by Ellen McGirt in Fast Company attempted to explain the President’s appeal, particularly to young constituents. McGirt wrote, “While a visionary puts forth a specific plan to be implemented, an adaptive leader works with constituents to devise one together.” And that Obama... “reinforces the notion that everyone is included and that this movement is actually a conversation to which everyone is invited.” Bravo!
The challenge is that when President Obama gathers around him people with competing perspectives in order to arrive at the best possible decisions for all of us, ingrained human behavior and politics as usual will get squarely in the way. If ever there was a time to transform an ineffective “culture”, this is it.
I am not neutral. I believe that the President’s administration should:
- Engage in fierce conversations from the very beginning.
- Have conversations during which those at the table come out from behind themselves into the conversations and make them real.
- Surface mokitas (a Papua New Guinea word for “that which everyone knows and no one speaks of”) and finding out what they’re made of.
- Raise the bar on the degree of boldness, openness, transparency, collaboration and cooperation at all levels within the administration.
- Send the internal and external signal that this administration will not be conducting business as usual.
I will close with the first and last stanzas of William Stafford’s poem, A Ritual to Read to Each Other.
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give —yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.