Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Expect Criticism Everywhere

I think recent news offers a good example of the pressures of leadership. For some time, President Obama left the drafting of the upcoming healthcare bill to Congress (after all, the legislative branch of government). After some time without much concensus, people criticized Obama for having lost the message of his healthcare platform, for being in the background.

After a little more time, planning, and a speech before a joint session of Congress, Obama then went on to give a great number of interviews on Sunday morning talk shows. He was said to have "seized the reins" of his healthcare message.

What response was there for the President's efforts? Journalists and critics argued that he was getting overexposed.

Today, a poll was released to study public opinion on whether the President seemed to be overexposed. The NBC/WSJ poll found that the majority of people did not think so.

I go over these criticisms one could raise about politicians because they help make a point for those thinking about seeking positions of leadership (many of my students). If you want to help people or if you are simply ambitious, just as in the academic world, you must come to expect criticism everywhere.

Whatever good thing you have done, expect even it to be criticized. I do not say this with cynicism. Rather, in the public sphere, we demand justification from one another because of the importance of public offices. Plus, without feedback and criticism we can never improve on our efforts. It also implies that to ever be proud about one's achievements, one must judge when to count a victory. If perfection is an ideal that is unachievable, a leader's criterion for satisfaction in ameliorating problems must be nearer than what is perfect.