My most recent book – Hard Times: Leadership in America – was published in October by Stanford University Press. The book explores the impact of context on leadership and followership.

Beginning February 3, I started posting in this space excerpts. They are in the order in which they appear in the book.

Excerpt from Chapter 5 – Economics

“So why does it seem that economic leadership in twenty-first century America is in a class by itself – that difficult for leaders in general to exercise? First are the complexities of modern capitalism. On a theoretical level they are difficult if not impossible to master; on a practical level they are difficult if not impossible to tame.

Second, even the experts, such as the president’s economic advisers, cannot compensate for whatever the executive’s deficiencies. When Obama was elected, neither he nor his vice president, Joe Biden, had any demonstrable economic experience or expertise….

Third, economic leadership is difficult to exercise because power is diffused, divided between, among others, the president and the Congress, the White House and the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve and the financial services industry, and the public sector and the private one. There is no single lever of power.

Fourth the economy has gone global. What happens in the United States affects what happens elsewhere in the world. And what happens elsewhere in the world affects what happens in the United States.

Finally, economic leadership is so difficult to exercise because of democratic followership – “because the grave problems of American public finance will not yield to the populist solutions that command political and public support.’”



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