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Prisoners of Power: Leaders Trapped by Inertia

bush-with-barack-obama“The whole history of America since World War II” Gary Wills argues in the New York Review of Books, “caused an inertial transfer of power toward the executive branch.” In his interesting article, entitled Entangled Giants, Mr. Wills wants to dispel the notion that the Bush administration, with its acceptance of torture and rejection of habeas corpus, is responsible for the expansion of the executive branch. Rather, the executive branch has grown in power and has shown no signs of stopping since the advent of the nuclear bomb and America’s increasing global dominance…

There are two major downsides to growing executive power according to Mr. Wills First, the constant growth of the executive branch isn’t easy to curb.

Second, a leadership position, as it broadens, becomes beholden to more people.

Looking at America’s executive branch Will’s argues that we can see that President Obama, once critical of the Bush administration, is now overseeing similar executive branch expansions and mistakes.

Mr. Wills states that Obama can’t fight for polices he once espoused because he now has a new, more urgent, agenda. He needs to preserve his staffers careers, happiness, and morale. Executive branches, hitched to a diverse spattering of agendas, will sometimes be forced to make decisions that aren’t perfect.

What Can We Learn From This?

Leadership positions, over time, grow and take on new responsibilities as expansions are made. They are never set in stone, but always adapting.

Organizations that rely on a strong, central, authority need to accept that decisions originating from the “executive” aren’t always going to be logical or consistent. Central authorities don’t make bad decisions on purpose. Sometimes decisions are made in order to keep a portion of the employees happy. Sometimes logic has less to do with these decisions than inertia.

Obama, like Bush, is finding out that inertia is a powerful force.



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