Since the Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives during the 2010 midterm election, and arguably for President Obama's entire tenure in the White House, the GOP has waged a war of paralysis on the President and the American people.
This is essentially the definition of anti-leadership. In fact, in my work as a leadership coach, the very few examples of executives inflicting any level of intentional paralysis on their organizations were, at best, put on a short-leash "performance improvement plan" and then usually fired or resigned.
Yet for elected officials, paralyzing the agenda is not a career-bender at all - in fact, it's somewhat in vogue among the GOP. Huge failures to innovate, ones that are important to the American people -- debt ceiling / fiscal cliff / job creation / gun and immigration reform -- have been driven to stalemate with surgical precision by House Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell. They have mastered the science of turning innovation into impotence, leadership potential into leadership failure.
In addition to their robust legislative kill list, they target the living as well. While many Americans appreciate being covered by affordable health insurance, refunds for premiums, and elimination of pre-existing conditions under Obamacare, the House has spent its valuable time voting to delay, de-fund, dilute, and otherwise denounce it, notwithstanding it's the law of the land, no less than 39 times.
Between killing innovation and beating a dead horse, the phrase 'GOP leadership' has stamped its walk-of-shame footprints in oxymoronic cement, to join the likes of 'jumbo shrimp' and 'political science.'
While that cement is still wet, there's time for the GOP to change its approach to leadership -- from paralysis to dialysis. The performance plan would include a process of cleaning up the lifeblood of the party, and getting back to its original DNA -- small government, reasonable taxes, and cross-party collaboration and negotiation. If they don't, they run serious risk of losing further ground in the 2014 midterms, particularly given their habit of anti-immigration bordering-on-racist verbal ticks.
Most won't give them credit for any possibility of significant change, particularly with McConnell and Boehner "leading" the pack. Yet it's not hard to imagine many in the party are working for something better. I've seen many skeptics rebuffed by my clients' ability to rise to the occasion when change is needed.
When they are coasting or facing adversity, I will ask a client, "After you've gone, how do you want to be remembered professionally?" in order to help them remember the best of who they are as leaders, and turn that insight into current-day actions.
Yet when I consider this question on behalf of McConnell and Boehner, I can't help but wonder if they'd really want their grandchildren to understand their legacy as bleakly as, "He was able to prevent progress effectively during one of the eras the nation needed it most."
Working against innovation and change isn't leadership - but can indeed be a legacy. When a true leadership team musters our collective and constructive potential into action, paralysis is simply nonexistent. Our nation was built on that, and will find it again. It's up to the GOP whether it wants to lose it or lead it.
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