posted by January 16 at 14:00 PMon
There’s a very interesting debate shaping up between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama over leadership styles. On Monday, Obama told the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal:
I have a pretty good sense of my strengths and my weaknesses.
I am very good at teasing out from people who are smarter than me what the issues are and how we resolve them. I don’t think there is anybody in this race who can inspire the American people better than I can. And I don’t think there is anybody in this race who can bridge differences … better than I can.
But I’m not an operating officer. Some in this debate around experience seem to think the job of the president is to go in and run some bureaucracy. Well, that’s not my job. My job is to set a vision of ‘here’s where the bureaucracy needs to go.’
The full video of the interview is here. Many have remarked that the leadership style described by Obama above sounds a lot like the leadership style of George W. Bush—that he’s all about the big vision, and it’s left to the smart people around him to work out the details. There was some discussion of this at last night’s debate. (Wish I could find a YouTube clip of that moment, but can’t—can anyone out there help?) If I remember correctly, Obama said that the big stylistic difference between him and Bush is that he values dissenting opinions and has the ability to change course. Clinton, during the debate, pressed her more hands-on leadership style, and today she continued that line of argument in this television appearance:
I don’t know how much traction this will gain with voters, but I find it a really fascinating, if somewhat academic, discussion: What style of leadership gets more done, the “hands-on” approach or the “big-vision” approach? (I say somewhat academic because in reality, I think, anyone in the Oval Office is probably forced to use both approaches; they’re not mutually exclusive.)
UPDATE: Found the clip. Obama talks about the “operating officer” quote at about 3:20 and Clinton compares Obama’s management style to Bush’s at about 8:20. But the whole clip involves a back-and-forth between Obama and Clinton over leadership (with a long interlude from Edwards on his mill-town upbringing and his passion for fighting for the middle class).