3 Leadership Lessons From Ted Kennedy

Whether or not you agree with Ted Kennedy’s political views, there’s a lot to learn from his leadership approach. To get a sense of Kennedy’s style, look at what a couple of his key political adversaries had to say about him:

John McCain: We disagreed on most issues, but I admired his passion for his convictions … and his uncanny sense for when differences could be bridged and his cause advanced by degrees.

Orin Hatch: I hadn’t the slightest idea that I would eventually have a strong working relationship with, and love for, the man that I came to fight. 

My take: Here are 3 leadership lessons that we can learn from Kennedy:

  1. Passion is powerful and contagious.
  2. You can disagree on issues without making it personal.
  3. Progress often requires compromise

The bottom line: Long live Kennedy’s leadership legacy.

Off Topic: Obama’s Victory Speech

I was on a flight to London when Obama was projected to win the election and when he gave his victory speech. But I was able to see the video and read the transcript at my hotel. I thought it was a great speech. It covered most of the 6 steps that I outlined for the president to revive “Brand USA.”

Rather than basking in the glory of the victory, Obama renewed his vow for change. Rather than celebrating the excitement of the moment, he defined a vision for the future. Rather than promoting the strength of the Democratic party, he made a plea for unity. Rather than focusing on his presidency, he framed the challenges and opportunities for the American people.

Here are some of my favorite parts of his speech: Read more of this post

6 Steps For The President To Revive “Brand USA”

I just read some comments from U2’s Bono about the importance of the upcoming US presidential election. Here’s the part that caught my eye:

The whole world has a stake in how things turn out. The way the U.S. is perceived — “Brand USA” — also means something. And it’s never been so closely watched… it’s a great chance to relaunch Brand USA

My take: Bono’s approach of framing the US challenges in terms of our “branding” makes a lot of sense. I like the idea of applying private sector thinking to the public sector. With that in mind, I’ve applied my 6 new management imperatives to the role of the US president. So here’s some advice for Barack Obama or John McCain in leading a revival of “Brand USA:”

  1. Invest in culture as a corporate asset: The national debt, federal deficit, and stock market devaluation are indications of our country’s economic woes. But there’s a more fundamental indicator of the US situation: the deteriorating attitudes, values, and goals of the American people — our US culture. The new president needs to define and communicate a clear vision for America with the goal of instilling a sense of pride, hope, and optimism in the American people. An improved US culture will align the actions of US people with initiatives like cutting back on oil consumption and help propel a strong, vibrant recovery.
  2. Make listening an enterprisewide skill. The world is in flux. The economic downturn is not a US issue, it’s a global issue. Severe problems like AIDS, global warming, and Bird Flu transcend sovereign borders. One fact is clear, the US can not succeed by acting unilaterally. To flourish in this interlinked world, the president will need to establish better lines of communications with and facilitate better coordination across all of the key countries and regimes around the world. He’ll also need to look for ideas and insights across political lines.  The new president will need to embed listening throughout his administration as a foundation for formulating strategies and policies.
  3. Turn innovation into a continuous process. We can’t keep going down the same path on critical issues like health-care, national security, energy, and the environment and expect to wind up with different, better results. Let’s face it, no legislative bill can fix these problems. What’s the answer? As Michael Porter has said: “Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.” So instead of pinning his hopes on big-bang solutions, the new president needs to create an environment (legislation and persuasion) that actively fosters coordinated and ongoing innovations in the private sector to improve these mega-issues.
  4. Provide a clear and compelling purpose. People need to know that the US stands for good, positive virtues. Why? So Americans will feel more connected (and committed to actualizing those virtues) and people in other countries won’t continue to think of the US as a big bully. So the next president needs to clearly define and articulate an inspiring vision for the country. Think about how much clarity the Ritz-Carlton credo provides for its customers, partners, and employees:
    “The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission… The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”
  5. Extend and enhance the digital fabric. Over the last 10 years, there’s been enormous advances in information technology (IT). Yet the US government, like many organizations, has not taken full advantage of IT opportunities. Why not? Because it’s difficult to change old processes, break through outdated thinking, and overcome parochialism. But the new president should aggressively take on these challenges and use IT to streamline governmental processes, coordinate information and analysis across departments, and dramatically increase Web self-service for citizens and government employees. The result: a lower-cost, more effective US government.
  6. Practice good social citizenship. As one of the most prosperous nations on earth, we need to make sure that we we take care of the needy in our country as well as helping those in less prosperous countries.  We also need to take a lead in fighting some of the world’s key problems like the global warming, world hunger, and AIDS. The new president should be a highly visible leader in attacking these problems. 

The bottom line: It’s up to the next president to make “Brand USA” one of the most admired brands in the world.

Take A Look At Yahoo! Election Dashboard

I just read that Obama is 4% ahead of McCain. It seems like every day there’s a new poll that talks about a few percentage points separating the presidential candidates. But what does that mean? At this stage in the election, I really miss Tim Russert who used simple language and easy-to-understand diagrams to describe the complex political environment.

In the spirit of easy-to-use political charts, Yahoo! has put together a really good rich Internet application (RIA) for examining the election state-by-state. It provides a ton of insight into the battle for the White House.

The bottom line: This is a great example of a very useful and usable RIA.

Obama And McCain Sites Fail The Usability Test

I just published a report called Presidential Candidate Sites Fail Usability that examined the usability of John McCain’s and Barrack Obama’s Web sites. We applied 5 of the 25 criteria from Forrester Web Site Review methodology. Our evaluation tested two scenarios: 

  • Make a $50 contribution on the candidate’s site
  • After seeing all of the news about the candidates’ different energy policies, user wants to quickly find an overview of the candidate’s energy policy.

Here’s how the sites fared:

These results are not very good. Interestingly, both sites failed our privacy and security criteria. This was a problem that I highlighted last November when I evaluated the six major candidates at that time (McCain was not included in that analysis).

The bottom line: Obama and McCain should make it easier for their online constituents.

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