BLG Leadership Insights

Pulling at the Rope: The Changing US-Israeli Coalition–Lesson for the Workplace

One of the challenges leaders face is when do they pull on the rope and when do they give people slack?  The relationship of the US with Israel has been in many ways, not simply a relationship between two states, but a relationship between individuals.  George Bush placed his emphasis on the focused alliance with Israel.  For him, the alliance was central.  In the context of Bush’s international agenda, this was paramount.  This led him to giving the Israelis a lot of slack—resources, autonomy, and minimal demands.  Bush hoped and assumed that the intent of the Israel and the intent of the US were identical in the long, if not the short, run.

In the workplace, similarly, leaders often put a disproportionate emphasis on loyalty and alliance–giving people all the resources they need, an immense amount of autonomy, and rarely tugging at the rope.

The problem is that too much slack can lead to divergence of agendas and the challenge for a leader is not simply to give people autonomy and resources, but to be able to assure that the intent and agendas of both parties are moving in the same direction. How often have you seen in organizations autonomous groups with their own resources doing whatever they care to do while forgetting the notion of accountability.  Tough leaders know when the time has come to pull on the string.  They know that at a certain point they may have to endanger the relationship in order to revamp it and cast a shadow on a coalition in order to strengthen it.  Currently, President Obama is beginning to pull the string.  It is a mistake to maintain that the tugging at the string is abandonment, disloyalty, or even total redefinition.

Often leaders who have experienced placid coalition relationships have had to modify these relationships because of changing circumstances. The challenge is not to dismantle the relationship while making adjustment, not destroying the intimacy because of changing times. The challenge is to redefine the parameters but maintain the essence of the core.  This is the challenge of the US-Israeli relationship, and the challenge that leaders in the workplace face everyday.