A Leadership Postmortem


The American Heath Care Act (AHCA) vote was quite the showdown-letdown. But whether you’re throwing middle fingers in the air or licking your wounds, let’s take advantage of the serious leadership lessons it served. 

Essentially, Speaker of the House and Representative Paul Ryan, (R) Wisconsin became the AHCA’s super-duper spokesperson as he introduced the replacement to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with something like, Hey, here’s Phase I. It’s better than the ACA. There’s more coming. I don’t really know what that is, but trust me. It’ll be great. 



I appreciate a simple message probably more than most, but there was a whole lotta meat missing from the GOP leadership on this one. During his speeches, Speaker Ryan sounded convincing and enthusiastic, even charming at times. I mean who could resist that story about the kegger, right? And, if this had been a lesser issue, maybe he could’ve relied on that charisma alone. But, in this instance, this huge impact to millions across the country, the people were demanding substance.  

And, there it is:

When it comes to making sense of strategic shifts, substance trumps charisma. 



Getting to the right amount of substance can be tough for leaders. It means you must do the hard work first, thinking all the way through to the end in some detail, identifying critical successes, change states, and milestones along the way. It’s simply not enough to start and say there’s more coming. For significant shifts, that’s just too far for most people to leap.

But knowing how much and when to share can be a strangely difficult and sometimes paralyzing situation for leaders. That’s because there’s a balance somewhere between feeling like you must have all the answers and feeling naked without a clue. The key is to find the sweet spot of art and science, where the unimaginable starts to take shape. It’s a framework without all the answers, but with enough connections to allow others to live into it. You know you’ve got it right when people start building on top of it and refer to it for guidance. 



Yet, too often, leaders become either impatient for progress or uncomfortable in the struggle. They wiggle away from the hard work, settling for something short of the end state, sorta like a good-enough-for-now state. And that’s what happened to the GOP. They tried the hurry-up for the quick win, and it cost them their first loss.


Future seeker, without a crystal ball. Obsessed with strategy and connection. A crusader for culture, great copy and big ideas. Laughs spontaneously and cries contagiously. Scorpio. 



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