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Old 09-27-2006, 03:25 PM   #1
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Not Like Father Like Son

The last place I expected to find a critique of Bush's leadership was in doing research for work on talent management (coincidentally coined the War for Talent in the late 90s) but this an interesting and well-articulated comparison of the Bushes so for what it's worth, here it is:

Leading leaders: How to manage the top talent in your organization
By Jeswald W. Salacuse
May/June 2006
Ivey Business Journal Online

Leadership is not a matter of position but of relationships, and one-on-one, personal encounters are vital in building those relationships. In the end, people follow you because they believe it is in their interests to do so, not because you claim to be a leader, because others have designated you as leader, or because you have the resources and position of leadership. There's no better illustration than the actions of George H. W.
Bush and George W. Bush.
Leading leaders against Iraq

Two instructive efforts to lead leaders occurred in 1990-91 and again in 2003, when the United States went to war against Iraq. The first was a success, the second a failure. In 1990-91, George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, skillfully organized and led a broad coalition of nations that drove Iraq from Kuwait with United Nations approval. That coalition did not spring into existence spontaneously. To create it, President Bush had to lead the leaders of the world's most important countries. Twelve years later, his son, George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, believing that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq was in the United States' vital interests, also sought to put together a broad international coalition and secure the United Nations’ authorization for military action against Iraq. He failed to achieve either. While the two situations were different with respect to the historical moment and the problems the two men faced, the fact remains that Bush the father was successful in leading leaders but Bush the son was not. In comparing the two situations, a natural and important question is why the father succeeded but the son failed.

French-fried leadership

For many supporters of George W. Bush, the answer to that question is easy: the French. France not only refused to join the American coalition against in Iraq in 2003 but also urged other countries to oppose it. Before accepting that explanation, one should ask whether it merely seeks to blame followers for a leader's own failure of leadership. Surely, directors of a troubled corporation would not be convinced by the CEO's explanation that it was all the fault of middle managers who refused to "get with the program." Failures by an organization or a country to achieve desired results lie as often in mistakes of leadership as in the intractable structure of the situation. Indeed, one of the tasks of great leaders is to change an apparently intractable situation in order to attain desired goals. An examination of the conduct of George H. W. Bush in 1990-91 and of his son in 2003 leads one to conclude that the father's success was as much attributable to his effective leadership as to the situation, and that the inability of his son to lead leaders into a broad coalition against Iraq was as much due to his ineffective leadership as it was to the intractable French.

A comparison of the two cases illustrates some important lessons about ways to lead leaders. First, President George H. W. Bush strongly believed that if other nations were to join the coalition to drive Iraq from Kuwait, the United States had to take an active, energetic leadership role in convincing them to join. Leadership, in the 41st President's view, required diplomacy across a broad front, and he proceeded to orchestrate a complex diplomatic effort on many levels - through direct contacts with the leaders themselves, through diplomatic missions by his deputies, through action at the United Nations and other international organizations, through foreign embassies in the United States, and through American ambassadors abroad - to build and maintain a coalition. All of this preceded his initiation of military action. George H. W. Bush's leadership was based on persuasion before action.

In contrast to the importance Bush the father attached to creating a coalition in 1990-1991, the prevailing attitude in his son's administration twelve years later was that other countries had no choice but to follow the United States. For George W. Bush and his associates in 2003, leadership by the United States seemed to flow automatically from its status as the world's only superpower. Moreover, if other countries did not follow the United States, the Bush administration declared publicly that the United States would go to war alone. So in 2002-2003, President George W. Bush and members of his administration talked about a coalition of the willing," as if that coalition would come into existence simply though the desire of other countries to join it and without the need for the United States to actively work to create it through leadership. The prevailing attitude of the Bush administration was that unilateral action by the United States would lead to multilateral action by other countries, not that multilateral diplomacy should come first.

As things turned out, of course, many countries, such as France, Germany, Turkey and Egypt, countries that had participated in the war to liberate Kuwait in 1991, as well as long-time allies such as Canada and Mexico, refused to go to war against Iraq in 2003. One lesson to be drawn from this aspect of the two cases is that other leaders, in their capacity as followers, always have the option of not following you; leadership is not an automatic process that happens because of your status or resources. Rather leadership, particularly of other leaders, is a willed, deliberate activity to which even the strongest leaders must devote strong efforts.

Another important factor that explains the difference in results is that Bush the father had broad experience in international diplomacy and longstanding relationships with the leaders of the day. As a former Vice President for eight years, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, director of the CIA, and ambassador to China, he intimately understood how international diplomacy worked and was on a first name basis with national leaders throughout the world. In putting together his successful coalition, he relied on his vast experience and contacts and energetically and personally dealt with other leaders by telephone, often on a daily basis, an approach that caused members of his staff to call him "the mad dialer." Bush the son, on the other hand, whose only previous government position was as governor of Texas, had no diplomatic experience and did not know personally the leaders that he was seeking to lead. Rather than deal directly with foreign leaders, as his father had done, he often delegated that task to other members of his administration, notably Secretary of State Colin Powell, and later to United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair. And instead of communicating one-on-one to persuade reluctant European leaders to follow him, George W. Bush often conveyed his messages through the media, a fact that tended to annoy the leaders he was seeking to lead.

Even Bush's deputies did not actively undertake energetic efforts to lead other countries into the coalition. For example, whereas President George H. W. Bush's Secretary of States James Baker visited forty-one countries on five continents to help forge a coalition for the Gulf War, Colin Powell hardly traveled anywhere in the months prior to the Iraq war. The Bush administration's lack of intensive, sustained interaction and communication with other leaders sent a message that it was not really interested in their views and that ultimately the decision on launching a war against Iraq was for the U.S., and the U.S. alone.

This dimension of the comparison of the two cases yields other important lessons about leading leaders. First, leadership is not a matter of position but of relationships. To be a leader, you need followers. People follow you because of your relationship with them. Second, one-on-one, personal encounters are vital in
building the relationships needed to lead leaders. The reason relationships are important is not because of the warm feelings they create but because positive relationships engender trust, and trust in a leader is vital in securing desired action from ollowers. Any proposed action by a leader entails risk. Persons perceive that following a course of action proposed by a leader whom they trust is less risky and therefore more acceptable than following the same recommended course of action by a leader whom they do not trust. World leaders, because of their personal relationship with and resulting trust in President George H. W. Bush, were more disposed to follow him than his son whom they did not really know.

The two cases also illustrate the importance of understanding and deferring to the interests of the persons you lead. People follow you because they believe it is in their interests to do so. They don't follow you just because you claim to be a leader, because others have designated you as leader, or because you have the resources and position of leadership. In 1990-91, George H. W. Bush understood the interests of the world leaders he was seeking to lead and sought to accommodate them in building his coalition. The world leaders of the day believed that United Nations authorization was vital and that it was in their interests to seek multilateral solutions to serious international problems. They also needed a clear rationale for going to war against Iraq. These elements were essential if the leaders of coalition countries were to convince their own citizens on the rightness going to war to liberate Kuwait.

A further interest for many European and Arab countries was a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President George H.W. Bush accommodated this interest by emphasizing the importance of the United Nations, by pursuing diplomatic processes before embarking on military action, by articulating a single overriding reason for war as the protection of an independent nation's sovereignty and the principles of the United Nations Charter, and by promising to launch a new diplomatic initiative to solve the Palestinian problem once Iraq was driven from Kuwait. He also provided certain countries with substantial aid packages in return for their participation in the coalition. Thus, throughout the buildup to the Gulf War, George H. W. Bush constantly sought to engage other leaders, to understand their interests, to listen to their objections and concerns, and to seek ways to accommodate those interests while pursuing his own overriding goal of building a coalition.

President George W. Bush in 2003, on the other hand, was not concerned about the interests of potential coalition partners and did little to accommodate them. He had no regard for the United Nations, was openly contemptuous of multilateral approaches to international problems, and constantly kept changing the rationales for war, all of which made it difficult for other leaders to sell the war to their own people. Unlike his father, President George W. Bush did not actively engage other world leaders and did not take their interests seriously. Instead, he chose to ignore resistant leaders, isolate them, and ultimately ostracize them diplomatically, to the point that the Air Force One started offering "freedom toast" for breakfast.
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