Some Political Leaders Need Better Soft Skills
Anyone can have a character flaw or two, but these leaders have a definite lack of soft skills. Instead of finding solutions, their "my way or the highway attitude" has often caused more problems. What can project managers learn from their stories?
Speaker of the House John Boehner
The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has a soft skills problem. Boehner is either crying or playing hardball with the President and Democratic leaders, which affects his leadership when managing any kind of project.
During a negotiation session with President Barack Obama concerning a raise in the debt-ceiling, Boehner had reportedly agreed to a deal to save the country more than $4 million by raising revenues and cutting expenditures. Once out in public, Boehner accused the President of not cooperating and negotiating in bad faith with the House Republicans. The country was taken to the edge of default and America's credit rating was downgraded. People will not listen to a project manager that cannot see both sides of the argument.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, is no better than House Speaker John Boehner when it comes to this project management characteristic. During the health care debates, Pelosi gave in to every Democratic demand to get the ground-breaking law passed. Many news agencies reported that Pelosi would not even meet with the House Republicans or any Republican leader.
After twisting a lot of arms and changing the health care bill to fit the wants of her constituents, Pelosi got the bill passed without one Republican vote. At the time, Pelosi was the Speaker of the House and had enough Democrats to get the bill passed through the House, but many are still fighting it. Will a change in power bring down the law?
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor
House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, has managed to get his Republican counterparts in the House to vote for his stimulus plan. The plan outlines major cuts in spending and lowering the corporate tax for all industries. Along with the cuts in corporate taxes and spending cuts, the plan also cuts entitlements that affect millions of Americans on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Disability.
Every Republican in the House voted for the plan and every House Democrat voted against the plan. Cantor could eventually lose all his popularity, because of his lack of soft skills when negotiating with the Democrats concerning this plan. A good project manager will try to get those opposed to his plan to cooperate so it can move forward effectively.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has some soft skill problems of his own that affect his project management abilities. During the negotiations concerning a raise in the government's debt-limit, Reid would not even talk to the Republican leaders about government entitlements. News reports stated that he was not even in the room during the negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.
Whenever any rumor was reported about the ongoing negotiations concerning government entitlements, Reid would go in front of the cameras and state the bill would not pass the Senate if it reduced these entitlement programs. Using harsh words as a project manager towards others on your team will only make those individuals work against you.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer placed herself on the national stage when she signed the toughest immigration law in the country. The new immigration law would allow police officers to stop any citizen they suspected of being an illegal immigrant, even if there was no probable cause for the stop. This hard line made her popular with her constituents, but caused others to sue the state.
Another controversy Brewer introduced is a proposition that would raise the sales tax in the state by one cent. The immigration law that brought her popularity from the voting Republicans dissolved quickly when the new tax was introduced.
When managing a project, be careful not to alienate stakeholders. You never know when you're going to need their support.
New Jersey Governer Chris Christie
Project managers need to use tact and authoritative words, but not talk down to people. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hasn't quite mastered this skill. The direct talking, tactless governor has become popular in Republican circles, but has drawn criticism from everyone else.
His popularity had grown so much in the past year that Republican leaders were pushing Christie to run for President. Christie eventually declined the invitation to join the race, but continues to slam every idea other leaders have pertaining to job creation, debt reduction and government entitlement programs.
Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann
Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann has such a lack of soft skills that her entire New Hampshire staff quit en mass. The lack of communications is being blamed, as well as her lack of knowledge of the incidents that created this mess in the first place. A memo released by her New Hampshire staff stated that Bachmann's national team was, "rude, dishonest, unprofessional and at times cruel."
Her hard-talking attitude brought her popularity at the beginning of your Presidential run, but has caused her problems since then. Project managers must use every communication skill available to them to complete a project. Not knowing what is going on around you, will cause the project to fail.
Former Vice-Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin
Former Vice-Presidential Candidate and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin has a serious lack of soft skills. Even her cable television series identified this character flaw. Palin's rogue attitude made her rich, but most political analysts state she is missing something.
News agencies have reported that she spent thousands of campaign dollars on a wardrobe for her and her family when she was running for vice-president. When the reports surfaced about this misuse of campaign funds, Palin blamed it on others. It is common for leaders with soft skill problems to blame someone else when difficulties occur.
All project managers must take responsibilities for their actions. Using funds for things they were not designated for will not only cause the project to go over budget, but will usually bring on other problems as well.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took such a hard line against collective bargaining that the state's Democrats defected. It is not good for a project manager to be so stuck to a specific point that others rebel against him.
Walker introduced a state budget that prevented state employees and their unions from negotiating new contracts. The governor told everyone to take it or leave, so before the budget could be voted on by the state's elected officials, the Democrats left. The vote on the new budget was delayed, but Walker would go further by sending out state troopers to hunt down the Democrats and bring them back so they would have to vote. Lucky for the Democrats, they had defected to another state.
The lack of soft skills by Walker caused state workers to rally around the state house en mass and voice their protest to the new budget. Creating a plan or environment that causes workers to leave is detrimental to a project's continued progress.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is another leader that must work on his soft skills. During many negotiations, McConnell would never propose something himself, but would slam any ideas that came from the Democrats. A project manager that does not have any problem solving skills will cause the project to stagnate.
No matter what Democratic bill comes before the Senate, McConnell tries to ensure that no Republican will vote for the bill. His hard line has brought the government to the brink of shutdown, default and lack of compromise.
Rough, Ginger: "Arizona Immigration Law Boosts Gov. Jan Brewer's Rating," AZ Central
The Star Ledger: "Chris Christie Slams Health Care Reform as a Government Takeover of Health Care," Politifact
Paulson, Amanda: "Michele Bachmann: Did Her National Staff Bungle the N. H. Campaign?" The Christian Science Monitor
Contorno, Steve: "Union Supporters Across Wisconsin Protest Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Proposal," Greenbay Press Gazette
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