Posts Tagged ‘Obama ’

A President’s Business Trip to Africa

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Cape Town on the Ground cx1The U.S. president and first lady on the ground in Cape Town

President Obama’s second trip to Africa signals the administration’s renewed commitment to the Sub-Sahara. At stops in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania this week the president is expected to highlight, as he has before, his over-arching focus on food security and global heath. He’s also expected to present new programs aimed at strengthening commercial ties with African countries, particularly democracies like the nations on his itinerary.

The administration wants to make it possible for the US private sector to play a more vital role in Africa at a time when other countries — notably China, Malaysia, India and Brazil — are stepping up their investments across the continent. Joining the president along the way will be some 500 US business leaders, sending a message to both African and American audiences that the US is hereby rolling up its sleeves.  The critical question about the president’s trip is whether the US is serious and, if so, what substantive policies will follow the anticipated rhetoric.


Contingency Thinking

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”                                                                                      ~Dwight Eisenhower


As information comes to light about the Special Ops mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan, we’re reminded of the value of effective contingency planning. Military analysts will one day reconstruct the planning measures taken by the JSOC team, and we’ll learn how the project specialists succeeded despite the challenges.

For now we can only speculate about the risks and uncertainties facing the planners at key decision points. But we do know that the mission’s tactical planners had to consider two big questions at every juncture: What can go wrong here, and what do we do about it?

These aren’t the only questions the planners had to pursue. They have to question the intelligence they’re using and they have to examine their own assumptions. Guarding against groupthink is a first order consideration. These “meta-planning” aspects of the exercise are as vital as formulating the action plan itself.


In Choosing a Leader

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. -Abraham Lincoln

The U.S. electorate is about to make its choice. The next president will be tested by an epic global economic downturn and a domestic crisis in leadership.  Even before he takes office, he’ll need to inspire confidence in his approach. He’ll have to build a consensus with leaders of the opposition and will have to choose some of them to join his team.  Governing in this environment will demand extraordinary leadership skills—sound judgment, character depth and an even temperament. 

I’ve been reflecting lately on the virtues of leadership. I’ve thought about how heads of state in the U.S. and around the world have met challenges as vexing as these.    

I keep returning to Jim Collins’ popular book, Good to Great. He analyzes how companies go from being merely good performers to achieving sustainable great performance.  In identifying success factors, he noticed that truly great companies were led by what he termed “Level 5 leaders”—individuals who possess a rare and seemingly contradictory blend of intense drive and humility. Collins observed that these leaders demonstrated an abiding commitment to the long term success of their companies rather than advancing their own personal agendas.