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Posted: December 05, 2012

The fine line between compromise and “Shove it”

Sometimes, leading means making people mad

Todd Ordal

I don’t believe this is the best forum for debating politics—though stirring things up is always a bit of fun…

It’s difficult to understand whether our current national politicians have a primary goal of leading and pressing a reasoned course of action or getting and staying elected.

Is the Republican Party’s current debate about potential changes to immigration policy because of values and better alignment with the Constitution’s governing principles, or is it merely to attract more Hispanic voters? Do Republicans who signed Grover Norquist’s Tax Payer Protection Pledge really believe the top income tax rate cannot be changed, or are they afraid the G-man will assault them?

Does Harry Reid really believe taxing the wealthiest among us will help our fiscal problems in a meaningful way, or is he just pandering to the masses of well- meaning but perhaps misguided 99 percenters? Did President Obama’s assaults on the banking industry before the election represent deep-seated beliefs or an understanding of how the issue played in the swing states?

I’m cynical about the answers to all of these questions.

It’s not just elected officials who contract the political disease. When staying in office becomes more important than the reasons for being there, weirdness reigns and trouble ensues—whether political office or the CEO’s suite.

To be the most effective leader possible, I believe you must be willing to get fired or quit. Somewhere between compromise and “shove it,” there’s a line to consider before acting. It’s a different line for everyone, and it moves and situations change, but it’s worth considering before you encounter it. Unfortunately, the amount of the paycheck ends up being one of the most considered factors when executives are presented with otherwise untenable situations.

I recently had lunch with a CEO whose perspective I appreciate. Discussing an upcoming board meeting, he described an issue on which he was at odds with an influential board member. He’d already figured out where his line was, identified his negotiating strategy and considered his options. More leader than politician, he’d determined that staying employed at his current firm wasn’t as important to him as doing the right thing.

Yes, you must get elected to govern and you need to have political skill to get to the C-suite. But as Colin Powell once said, “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”
 

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

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Readers Respond

John--My point is about leadership in the C-suite; its not a political article. I used the dysfunction of political leaders as an analogy only. I like good political debate--and some of it that applies to business is appropriate here. Some of it, in my opinion, is best left to other venues. By Todd Ordal on 2012 12 05
These political articles are a turn-off. Let us make it a Biz news and not political discussion/opinion forum. By John on 2012 12 05
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