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Tuesday, 31 August 2004
President Bush struggles to maintain trust
Topic: Politics
The US Republican Party began its national convention in New York yesterday to officially nominate Mr George W. Bush as their candidate for the presidential election in November.

However, even before the convention began, protestors took to the streets of New York on Sunday in the thousands -- organisers claimed the number to be over 500,000. Some protestors carried signs saying "Support our troops -- send them home".

Disenchantment over the handling of the war in Iraq was obviously a major reason for the protest. Other protestors were angry over the lack of jobs.

James O'Toole, research professor at the University of Southern California's Center for Effective Organizations and former assistant to the secretary of health, education and welfare in the Nixon administration, has suggested perhaps a more fundamental problem that Americans have with the Bush administration.

In an article for Fast Company, O'Toole wrote:

President Bush has vacillated between contradictory approaches to leadership: realism and idealism... Realists and idealists can both be effective leaders. But one cannot be both at once. And that cuts to the heart of President Bush's problem. In the international arena, he first offered realist arguments for invading Iraq (the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction), then switched to idealist motivations (bringing democracy to the Middle East). Domestically, he pushed the idealist notion that taxes should be reduced to shrink government -- but later suggested, realistically, that a tax cut would act as an anti-recession stimulus.

Such waffling has undercut the level of trust in President Bush's administration, even within his own party... The leadership lesson for President Bush -- and for any leader -- is simple: Followers don't much care if leaders are realists or idealists, but they distrust inconstancy.
Inconsistent behaviour is a problem faced by many ambitious leaders. Intelligent, charismatic leaders usually know what their followers want them to say and do.

However, in doing what their followers want, inevitably, all leaders will make mistakes at some point in time or other. Ambitious leaders feel especially threatened by such mistakes and, in their desperation to salvage their reputations, are likely to try to justify their actions even in the face of the mistakes.

This is when they are most likely to "waffle" and shift positions, which in turn makes them appear inconsistent. And ironically, damage their reputations even more by appearing hypocritical and untrustworthy.

Posted by lim_cs at 7:28 PM JST | post your comment (0) | link to this post

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