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Leadership Decides

November 15, 2011

As our great left-leaning national temper tantrum of OWS and its little offshoots enters the “yea, we got our butts kicked, but now we’re going to visibly stand in the corner and suck our thumbs,” phase, we’re beginning to see the stories of some of the leadership indecision that let this stuff get out of hand in the first place.  Chip Johnson has a stellar article in the SF Chronicle/SF Gate that links an upcoming tax vote in Oakland to the debacle in that city.  I’d encourage you to go read the whole thing, as he shows how this indecision is likely going to lead to a further “no-confidence” movement that could oust Mayor Jean Quan.  But let me highlight a few things in the area of leadership from the article.

Since the Occupy crisis began, several sources confirmed that City Administrator Deanna Santana threatened to resign over Quan’s handling of the situation. The former San Jose deputy city manager began her duties in August.

Quan placed Santana and interim police Chief Howard Jordan in an untenable situation. When they carried out her order to clear the camp on Oct. 25 and things went bad, Quan offered up their credibility rather than risking her own and taking responsibility.

Nope, not my fault.  Yes, I’m the mayor, and yes, I ran out the former police chief and then blamed the people who were giving me good advice that I wouldn’t take.  So it’s all their fault.  They should have tried harder to convince me.  A good leader listens to advice, and then takes responsibility for the results regardless of the advice taken.  But that means that the good leader makes decisions in the first place.  If instead the leader just dithers, then the real crisis happens.

Some of the solutions Quan has suggested during this crisis have left some of her colleagues dumbfounded. On Nov. 2, at the end of a general strike when bottles and rocks began flying and a group of demonstrators occupied an empty building, Quan proposed sending in her husband, Floyd Huen, to reason with protesters. No one in the room said a word.

In the end more reasonable minds prevailed: Police swept in and made dozens of arrests in battles with masked protesters who set fires, shattered display windows and barricaded streets throughout the night.

According to another article that I linked earlier, the decision to move in was only made over her objections by the chief of police.  So even the decisions made don’t carry the stamp of leadership, or even consensus-driven thought.  The result was, and is, chaos.

I’ve worked for many good (and many bad) leaders in my time.  The trait that I most often see in a leader is the abiliity to make a decision and live with the consequences of it.  It’s too bad that Oakland doesn’t have that type of leadership at the top.

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