Clinton, Edwards & Obama, New Hampshire debate (Jan 5, 2008).
photo EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images.
Future - Present - Past::Obama - Edwards - Clinton.
Future is to Present is to Past as
Leadership is to Lobbying is to Legislating.
Leaders create the future. They bring it forth. They declare it. They speak, and in the moment of their speaking, the future is.
John F. Kennedy and we SHALL put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
In that moment, we "shall it," all of us, the entire country. Kennedy declared our future. He brought it forth. He languaged it. And as one, we moved forward to meet the challenge, more or less, together.
If you were alive July 20, 1969, and of a certain age and in the western world, you watched as Jack Kennedy's declaration unfolded. I was ten years old and I remember everything.
That's leadership in action. Leaders make DECLARATIONS.
Genuine declarations -- "Strike! Ball! Strike Three and you're OUT!" "Guilty" "By the authority invested in me by the State of Massachusetts, I now pronounce you husband and husband" -- are true in the moment they are said.
Managers operate at a different level from executives.
Executives make the fundamental declarations of the enterprise:
What business are we in? Who are we competing with? Who is our long term strategic ally? What price should we buy and what should we sell at? Who are our key hires?
Managers aren't about declarations. Managers are about requests:
Please get x done by time y. I need the Johnson report done by Friday, Tom. Increase sales 10% this quarter, Sally. Go talk to legal and get clearance for me to sue those bastards. Call IT and find out when I can have a new monitor, please. Deborah, if you ever pull that shit again, you're fired.
This isn't to say managers don't engage in strategic thinking or speculating, or being lobbied by their workers for this, that or the other thing. Managers get lobbied a lot. The term, "office politics" was invented to
bitch talk about managers lobbying each other and making inane requests. But at some point, managers turn all the speculating and lobbying into action.
They start making requests.
Declarations which change the direction of the enterprise fundamentally, are outside the scope of managerial thinking. It's why managers have such a hard time transitioning into enterprise-level executives. It's a different linguistic skill set.
Fundamentally, managers make requests.
Workers are all about competence. Why?
Because workers sell their ability to make and keep promises. Workers in an enterprise are paid for how competent they are at making and keeping promises in a particular domain of action.
Whom do they make these promises to? Their manager.
From surgeon to pilot, writer to actor, gay hooker (*waves to Jeff Gannon*) to Special Assistant to the President of the United States, workers sell competence at making and keeping promises.
A worker obviously has to know what they're doing -- the more competent, the better. But showing too much interest in stuff outside your field of knowledge will get the other workers pissed at you for busting the curve. You need to stick with what you know, not head into the unknown. You're there to deliver on your promises. That's how you get paid.
Executive = Declarations: bring forth, generate something new, lead.
Manager = Requests: please do x by time y with condition of satisfaction z.
Worker = Promises: deliver competent performance in a domain, over and over.
And never the twain shall meet.
Let's walk it back to our Presidential candidates.
One speaks in declarations, inspires, leads.
The second requests you elect him to fix problems, lobbies for a change so he can fix the system.
The third talks of her competence and experience, promises she will do what she's always done, and has the policy plans and papers to prove it.
Leader. Manager. Worker.
Obama is breaking out now because he speaks the language of a leader.
Obama's vision is true right now.
Watch him at the 100 Club Dinner in New Hampshire.
He's not making promises, even when the words coming out of his mouth are a promise. ALL of everything he's saying is a declaration, a future which is true now because he speaks it.
When Obama speaks, he creates a future of an America in which all of us together will take on the troubles we know in our heart are coming and repair the damages which have occurred. Every time Obama opens his mouth, that future is more and more real. It happens AS he speaks. Obama's speaking makes it so. By declaration.
Edwards is using the language of a manager, someone here to solve our problems. Fundamentally he is not declarative. He tries. And fails. Edwards is painting a picture of an America which might be IF. He says, "Elect me President and THEN all this will come to pass." That's a request. He's making requests.
Edwards is an old-style Union man so even when his words are canonically declarative, if you listen carefully, what he's really doing is making a request for you to elect him because he can't deliver on his vision unless he's President. This is the answer to the people [the press] who wonder about Edward's authenticity, and how it is he's committed himself to attacking poverty for four years and nothing has happened. Nothing CAN happen till he's elected. Who Edwards is linguistically is, he has no power till he's in office. His power is dependent on his office. That makes him a manager.
Clinton uses the language of a worker, the language of deep experience and competence. She knows what she's doing. She tells us you can trust her judgment, knowledge and understanding, her years and years of being on the job, wisdom and training. She is no doubt genuinely baffled that anyone would choose someone who doesn't have the competency and vetting she has. That is someone immersed in a world in which what matters most is competence in a domain, competence ruling over everything, the world in which the workers love their queen.
No matter what words come out of her mouth, even if she's using declarations or making requests, what Clinton really is doing is making promises: I'm the most competent. Trust me.
The Presidency and Leadership
The Presidency is the greatest Bully Pulpit in the world. How many times have we heard that?
Hundreds of reporters follow the President everywhere. We know when he has a polyp removed or falls off a bicycle. Nothing else in the world is like being President of the United States.
If there's one thing I'm certain of about the Presidency, it is that while competence helps, the job of President is not about being a good worker, and it is not about being a manager. It is, almost entirely, about leadership.
The President makes the fundamental declarations for the United States. He or she, sets the direction of the country. In many ways, he declares what our values are, what we care about, what we focus on as a nation.
And like a large rock thrown in a pond, the direction of the United States as declared by the President ripples throughout the world, up and down the Americas and across the oceans. In every way. To the point that one can not predict which ripple will cross which ripple, when and how or where, and to what impact.
The work of the Presidency... is for managers and workers. Yes, a certain level of competence and being in touch with reality is called for, along with integrity, as the entire world has learned to its horror over the past seven years.
But while the President will perform many managerial functions and acts, the President is not a manager. The President's core function is to declare. To bring forth. To say who we are, what we stand for, and what actions the United States is and is not taking in the world. From these declarations, entire branches of government spring into action in many nations... on his or her word alone.
It's called The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America and it says,"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal".
It isn't called "The Request of the Thirteen United States of America, oh please, please, will you let us go free?" or "The Promise of Twelve of the United States of America to throw a Tantrum if you don't leave us alone really soon now but we couldn't get Rhode Island to join in but we hope you'll take us seriously anyway."
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.
Signed: And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
They vowed everything in support of their declaration. Which is why Great Britain took their word deadly seriously.
Which is why Senator Barack Obama is winning...
Declarations create nations.
Obama is creating a future nation right now, every time he speaks.
If his brush-fire gets oxygen, it has the potential to explode into a genuine firestorm. Other people in his campaign are starting to be able to communicate Obama's vision. This will eventually spread all the way down to individual campaign workers and people who just hear or see him or are touched by his presence. It's a movement, on fire with a shared common vision.
When a FIRESTORM passes through, everything changes.
Edwards talks of his vision for the future, lobbying away, but because it's all just promises unless he's elected, it can't happen and the polls know it.
Clinton talks of her past -- competence and experience. She tries to make them relevant to a future she envisions, but less and less are listening. It's the past.
Lead - Lobby - Legislate::Future - Present - Past
Declaration - Request - Promise::_____ - _______ - ______
Fill in the blanks.
Now imagine November.
Updated January 13:
At the time I wrote the above article, I was working on deadline. My mentor and teacher in speech act theory is Senator Fernando Flores, Ph.D. of Chile. Upon further research, I have discovered a paper which I have a copy of, written by Dr. Flores and Rafael Echeverria in August, 1989, titled The Game of Power.
The writers distinguish power as a linguistic assessment, then go on to specify six sources of power. This is the paper's main thrust. Additionally, they specify three conversational spaces within organizations, 1. Top managers and executives, 2. Middle managers, and 3. Workers, each basing their power primarily in the linguistic space of declarations, requests and promises, respectively.
Flores and Echeverria also talk briefly about "specialists", whom they say, "A specialist, independently of how he is paid, belongs to the low level of power. Specialization is the counter conversation of power." In contrast, they point out, "The military and lawyers, on the other hand, are normally assisting people in the power conversation or holding power positions for themselves. They tend to develop the kind of competencies that will make them appropriate choices to participate in the power conversation."
I deeply regret having forgotten this source paper which so clearly influenced my thinking, and having failed to give proper credit to its authors.