Tag Archives: President

When Will the United States Next Have a Transformational President on Domestic Policy?

I was catching up on some of the journal articles I’ve accumulated to read over the last year and I one caught my eye: “Transformational and transactional presidents,” by Joseph Nye, Jr. In the article, Nye makes the case that presidents didn’t matter (as much) to the US developing into a great power as we may have previously thought. Furthermore, Nye makes the case that our definitions of the two types of leadership aren’t clear and that the preference for transformational leaders is misplaced.

One of the parts that I enjoyed about this brief article was how Nye identified that presidents can be transformational and transactional at the same time. How? Because there are many different facets to a presidency and so while a president may be transformational in domestic policy, they might not be in foreign policy. Similarly, they can not be transformational in foreign policy early on in their term, but become transformational in response to external events.

Upon finishing the article, I was left wondering if (when?) the United States will again have a transformational president, with regard to domestic policy. Nye didn’t make this case in the article (but maybe he did in his book?), but based on his definition of transformational leaders, with regard to objectives [seeking major change], President Obama was certainly a transformational president. Obamacare is a sweeping change to the way that the US administers healthcare to its people. At the time, President Obama also enjoyed majorities in both the Senate and the House, so this kind of change was more possible (especially more possible than it is now. Can you imagine Pres. Obama trying to pass anything close to Obamacare with the GOP-controlled House and Senate?)

Given Hillary Clinton’s speech this past weekend, I’m inclined to think that she has ideas about domestic policy that would make her a transformational president. However, based on what’s been written about the likelihood of the GOP to continue to hold the majority in the House (redistricting, etc.), it doesn’t seem like there’s likely to be a Democratic-controlled House for the next few election cycles. It’s possible that the Senate flips back to the Democrats in 2016, but they’d need the House to also make a “big change.” So, it seems that, if there’s going to be a transformational president (on domestic policy), it’d have to come from the GOP.

I haven’t been following too closely the candidates from the GOP side, especially with regard to their domestic policy ideas, but is there a transformational president amongst them? There could be, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. If neither party is able to sweep the polls in 2016, we might be waiting for a transformational president on domestic policy in the US until at least the next decade.

ResearchBlogging.orgNye, J. (2013). Transformational and transactional presidents Leadership, 10 (1), 118-124 DOI: 10.1177/1742715013512049

Why Women are Better CEOs, Presidents, and Prime Ministers

New research shows that women are far better at handling stress than men. I suppose that’s not a newsflash as most people already think that’s true, but consider the way in which this study frames it [Emphasis added]:

We consistently found the same general response pattern: while stressed women showed higher self-other distinction than women in the non-stressful control condition, men showed the converse pattern. More specifically, stressed women showed reduced emotional egocentricity bias, enabling them to judge the emotions of the other person in a way that was less influenced by their own emotional state. Moreover, their response times in the cognitive perspective-taking task decreased under stress, documenting that they were able to regulate the mismatch between their own and the “director’s” perspective faster under stress. Finally, stressed women showed a reduction of automatic imitative tendencies in the imitation-inhibition task, indicating that they were able to overcome low-level social signals interfering with their own movement intentions. Note that the latter finding is crucial. It highlights that women did not simply show an increase in other-related responses under stress – as this would have resulted in increased interference from automatic imitation. Instead, they were able to flexibly increase either self- or other-related representations, depending on the task demands which either required overcoming egocentric biases, or overcoming social interference.

As the stereotype goes, women are more “emotional” than men, so it would be much better for an organization or unit if it were managed by a man. However, this research is telling us that, when under stress, it is men who are less able to distinguish their emotional state from the intentions of those around them. It is men who are more adversely affected by stress. For women, it’s the opposite. In fact, women tend to be more prosocial [behaviour intended to benefit others] when they’re stressed. Meaning, instead of retreating inward, women are actually more helpful when they’re stressed.

This research certainly makes one think about the way that many organizations and countries are run today. Most people would agree that being a CEO, President, or Prime Minister certainly comes with oodles of stress. Unfortunately, the number of women who hold these positions is far outweighed by their male counterparts. Of course, there are a number of reasons for that, which we won’t get into in this post, but consider for a moment if the numbers were flipped. That is, what if there were more women CEOs (or high-powered leaders)? Or, what even if it was 50/50! What if the number of high-powered leaders and CEOs was 50% women and 50% men? At that point, would it be easier for folks to see, understand, and digest that women are actually better leaders and better at handling the stress?

Maybe it’s the language we use.

A quick Google search showed mixed results for “women are better CEOs.” In fact, many of the results near the top indicated that women CEOs are more likely to be fired. However, when I keyed in “women are better leaders,” I got plenty of positive results. Posts on Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, and articles talking about academic research in newspapers like The Globe and Mail.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the world during my time in it, it’s that change (usually) happens gradually. Rarely is there a massive cultural shift overnight. So, here’s hoping that research like this contributes to the realization for some that when it comes to managers and leadership, women just might have an edge over men.

ResearchBlogging.orgTomova L, von Dawans B, Heinrichs M, Silani G, & Lamm C (2014). Is stress affecting our ability to tune into others? Evidence for gender differences in the effects of stress on self-other distinction. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 43, 95-104 PMID: 24703175

Visiting Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Lesson in Incrementalism

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Mount Vernon — otherwise known as George Washington’s home. It was quite lovely. The grounds are beautiful — so many wide open spaces, lots of greenery, and access to a waterway. Just what you’d want in an estate, I suppose. It was a bit goosebump-inducing to be able to walk through (and be near) the room where Washington and some of the other Founding Fathers plotted.

After walking through the museums on the estate, I was a bit surprised. I didn’t grow up with American history (having spent my youth in Canada), so I didn’t know much of the story of how the United States came to be of the United States. As a result, I was surprised to read about just how tenuous the beginning actually was. Of course, I’m aware that some of it may have been a bit dramatized, but Washington did a remarkable thing (depending on your perspective).

The surprising part, though, comes when I reflect on the discussions of the “greatest” President in the history of the United States. Whenever I read articles about this superfluous ranking, invariable, Lincoln tops the list. Part of this could be because some of the articles I’d been reading about the greatest US Presidents were written right around the time that the Lincoln movie was coming out. I’m also not trying to minimize what Lincoln did for the US — it is certainly important. Although, without Washington, would there even have been an Abraham Lincoln (in the way that we know of him)?

One other thing that was interesting to read about when walking through the museum was the idea that Washington also believed that the slaves should be free. Some attribute this belief to the fact that he freed his slaves when he died. Part of the reason (it’s theorized) that he didn’t free all the slaves was because of the shaky grounds that the US was still on when he was alive. Had he tried to make such a bold movie, the US might not have survived. In all fairness, some could make the argument that the US is still struggling with Lincoln’s decision to do just that (and that was a generation after Washington apparently considered the act).

In seeing that Washington was considering freeing the slaves, it made me think about incrementalism. When I used to watch politicians debate seemingly “small” measures to big problems, I would always grow frustrated. I would think to myself, why can’t they just make the big solution? I’m reminded of the phrase, “all in good time.” Sometimes, it’s not feasible to make big changes all at once. Even the small changes take time adjusting to (in politics). Making a big change could be untenable to some groups of people.

I look at the Affordable Care Act that President Obama pushed so hard for a couple of years ago. Many Democrats and liberals were upset that there wasn’t a push for a single-payer system. One would assume that President Obama opted not to push for that because he didn’t think that it could have passed. Healthcare, in and of itself, was hard enough to pass, so trying to pass something like a single-payer system would have been that much harder.

Circling back to Washington… I wonder what he would/could have accomplished for the country had he stayed on for a third term as President. I know that he died two years after stepping aside, but if he had continued as President, would we have gotten the 22nd Amendment sooner? Would Presidents like Jefferson or Madison stayed on for more than two terms?

The Audacity of Hope: Obama’s Impromptu Speech About Trayvon Martin and Race

This afternoon, President Obama surprised everyone by making an appearance in the White House press briefing room. He spoke for approximately 17 minutes about Trayvon Martin, race, the law, and some other things. Part of the specialness of this speech was that it was impromptu (at least it appeared that it was unplanned) and was unscripted. [I couldn’t embed the video, but you can see it here.]

There were a lot of key things that he addressed in his speech, but what I thought to be the most important was the last few minutes. In the last few minutes, President Obama said that the younger generations are doing it much better than previous generations. The implication here is that the younger generations are less racist (or less unapproving) than previous generations. He talked about how he would listen to Malia and Sasha (his kids) speak with their friends and hear how they interacted. As a result, he thinks that the younger generations are doing it better than the older generations.

As I heard him say that, it made me think about how our countries are governed. Right now, the people who run the country (and by extension, the world) are older. I wonder what it’d be like if we had younger people who ruled the world. Maybe younger people would “get us there faster.” As a way to temper the eagerness of young people, maybe it’d be important to have some people from older generations to be advisors.

I wonder… are there any countries, states, provinces, counties, cities, or towns that are run by “younger” people? Are they more successful? Could we map this onto bigger populations with the same success?

~

For the first 14+ minutes, it seemed like there was an almost sombre tone to President Obama’s remarks. However, as he shifted to talking about the younger generations, I got the sense that he had hope for the future. I got the sense that he had hope for the future of the country because of the progress he sees in younger generations. While nothing is certain about the future nor are the implications, I’d like to think that it’s rather poetic that the leader of the United States believes in a brighter tomorrow. That President Obama believes that we are getting better as a society. As a people. That we are beginning to treat each other with more respect. More love. More kindness. And the hope is that this will continue with each succeeding generation. Hope.