Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Both/And Leader in an Either/Or World

For the record, I don't think President Obama has any magical powers, or that he plays 11th dimensional chess, or that he bluffs, or that he's merely lucky. What I do think is that he develops his North Star, takes the long view, and enters negotiations from the standpoint of finding both/and solutions (partnerships) rather than engage in the power games of either/or (dominance).

Several people are pointing to a fascinating blog post by Jim Stuart where he talks about President Obama being an integral leader. If you haven't already read it, please do so!
On balance, most of us in the US and elsewhere have a binary view of conflict: if you win, I lose, and vice versa. And we are completely immersed in the consciousness of scarcity, resource conflict, and fear of the other. Clearly, Gandhi, Mandela and King operated from a different level of consciousness, where abundance, peacemaking, and trust were the qualities seen first, and were part of each leader's basic operating system. Developmental psychologists call this level of consciousness integral, and tell us that less than 5% of the world has attained this consciousness level. Obama, I believe, is part of this small percentage of people who see things whole...

...none of this makes sense to our pundits - that operational mode doesn't compute - power is everything; the powerful are always the winners; never let your guard down; he who has the gold rules, etc, - so folks just cannot see it when something like what has just happened, occurs. And central to this: Obama truly does not care. He is not attached to being the "last man standing"; he is attached only to the result, to the outcome, to the vision - the North Star he has been following. You may not believe me, or really understand what the hell I am talking about. But this is what has just gone down, and the actions, the patterns, the apparent sudden reversals, the willingness to look the fool - all these are products of an integral consciousness. Obama is an integral leader.
And right on cue, President Obama affirms all this in his interview this morning with George Stephanolpoulos. In talking about Russia and Putin, the President suggests that we need to get out of the old mindset of either/or defined by winners and losers.
You know– Mr. Putin and I have strong disagreements on a whole range of issues. But– I can talk to him. We have worked together on important issues...

I mean the fact of the matter is– is that– if Russia wants to have some– influence in Syria– post-Assad, that doesn’t hurt our interests.

I know that sometimes this gets framed or– or looked at through the lens of– the U.S. versus Russia. But that’s not what this is about. What this is about is how do we make sure that we don’t have the worst weapons in the hands, either of a murderous regime, or– in the alternative, some elements of– the opposition– that– are as opposed to the United States– as they are to Assad.
As so many politicians and pundits are trying to figure out whether Putin won or lost, President Obama is saying that kind of analysis is irrelevant. His North Star in the Syrian situation has always been to deal with the threat of chemical weapons and to bring the world community together to find a diplomatic solution to the civil war. As he said elsewhere in the interview, he thinks all that is in the best interests of Russia as well.

This is exactly the same kind of both/and approach he's always taken with the Republican opposition in Congress. The trouble is, unlike Putin, the Republicans have been locked into the win/lose mindset, even if it means they lose. Here's how mistermix described it a couple of years ago.
...Ezra Klein thinks that Obama’s a bad poker player. He may be right, but the analogy isn’t helpful. Poker is a win/lose game. Negotiation is a win/win game, because both parties get something when a deal is struck. Republicans aren’t playing poker or negotiating. They are playing another game, call it “You Must Lose”. They’re happy with win/lose, if they win, but they’ll tolerate lose/lose as long as Obama loses.
Back in 2010, David Frum practically begged Republicans to give up this lose/lose mentality and suggested that their refusal to do so would be their "Waterloo." Lately President Obama has made some inroads in the development of a common sense caucus that is willing to work towards both/and solutions, but the lunatics in the House still seem hell bent on total destruction.

President Obama has been clear that he will not repeal Obamacare or negotiate over raising the debt limit, but is willing to work towards common ground over the budget. This President doesn't bluff. So I'd suggest that Speaker Boehner should take him at his word - just as Putin did - and work towards a both/and solution. Let the lunatics finally have their Waterloo.

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