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Do Leaders Quit?

October 29, 2010

Interesting post over at Hot Air today speculating what Nancy Pelosi would do if the GOP actually does re-take the House next week.  The original story is at Yahoo.

Pelosi and her allies adamantly refuse to entertain questions about a possible Democratic minority. But Democratic sources say they have a hard time imagining the 70-year-old, independently wealthy California Democrat would want to return to the less-powerful post that she held for four years before becoming Speaker in 2007, particularly after having spent the past four years driving the Congressional agenda.

This, to me, is a tough question on leadership.  If you’re on the losing side of the equation, do you stick around as a leader?  The answer, as always: it depends.

In my own career, I’ve been given the heave-ho on lower levels, but I’d like to think I worked the right transitions to make sure that my team was in good shape before I moved on.  And I’ve never just quit because my ideas weren’t valid.  I always looked for ways to keep pushing the different ideas, even from an inferior position.  I modeled my leadership style on one or two key mentors, who often would lose the individual corporate battle, but who would always be looking for the overall win instead of the daily victory.

So what do you do if you’ve lost your seat in the most powerful position in Congress?

CQ also reports that some House Democrats fear Pelosi’s departure.  She is a prodigious fundraiser, and her top-down management style has made her indispensable to the current decision-making process.  A reshuffle would mean something akin to starting from scratch, no doubt one of the reasons why so few Democrats would commit to voting against her as Speaker in the unlikely event that Democrats managed to cling to a majority after the midterms.

Ed goes on to make the point that it was Ms. Pelosi’s leadership that cost the Dems congressional control (and even if they don’t lose control in a few days, they’ll certainly be fractured).  So how do you handle that as a leader?  Well, you need to make sure  that the dream in some form lives on.  If you decide to bail and let the rest of them figure out how to move forward, that’s not leadership.  It’s quitting.

I can’t say what will happen, heck I’m not even going to predict what happens on Tuesday (though I’m hopeful for a conservative win).  But I do have to wonder what type of leader would suffer a bad loss and then just run instead of trying to establish the next generation of leaders.

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