Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Leaders Without Borders

I had dinner last weekend with a conservative journalist who is well-known among policy wonks and blue hairs. A couple across the bar recognized my dinner companion and decided to broadcast their political views by miming the act of vomiting. Happily, my friend was entirely unaffected and maybe even mildly amused. He’s obviously seen much more effective debate strategies from those who disagree with him. I, on the other hand, was surprised by my fellow traveler’s gross lack of civility.

Joe Biden, in the vice-presidential debate says that he stopped questioning people's motives early in his service in the Senate. Instead, he questions their judgement. Similarly, I believe Democrats and Republicans share many common values and yet have very different beliefs about how to best acheive those values through policy and practice. Ultimately, if we focus our dissent on the how and what of achieving goals instead of judgements about people's motivations (since these are often loaded and incorrect), we will have a more civil politics.

Think about your workplace: when someone underperforms, what causes acrimony? If we think about a mistake as a deficit in our systems or the result of an unusual situation, there's little room for upset and we'll focus our energies on building a more supportive system. The poison flows when someone makes negative assumptions about WHY someone screwed up (they're careless, they're an idiot, etc..

In the best of worlds, we can learn about people's motives and understand them. And that should be our first goal. If that is not possible, we should assume their motives are exactly the same as ours. If you try that with your co-workers, spouse, or someone from the opposite party, you'll find yourself in more productive conversations, looking for solutions and getting better results.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wiki Leadership

What would it take to launch an internationally celebrated holiday with major events in over 100 cities, significant municipal policy pronouncements in honor of the day and loads of press coverage? I’d guess a million dollars, a small staff and some event planning consultants.

OneWebDay’s founder Susan Crawford accomplished all of this with no staff and no money. She unleashed a torrent of global activity by tapping hundreds of people’s passion for how the web is changing people’s lives for the better and connecting them to action. Then, she stepped out of their way.

New York City’s event on Monday in Washington Square Park was a perfect example of her wiki-style leadership. She opened the session with brief remarks about her passion for the power of the web and why she started the holiday. Then Susan introduced Sree Sreenivasan (Columbia Journalism and WNBC-TV to moderate the speeches of other of the Internet’s leading lights: Jonathan Zittrain (Harvard Law), Laurence Lessig (Stanford Law), Craig Newmark (Craigslist) and Tim Westergren (Pandora's Box). Susan could have chosen to run the show herself as a distinguished academic, ICANN board member and former partner at Wilmer Cutler. Instead, she turned the attention to others and they owned the moment.

In addition to some old-guard victories like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s extension of internet access to low-income housing on the day, Susan has engaged the vision and passion of countless Millenials, including Fred Benenson of Creative Commons and Live Culture and Matt Cooperrider. They are the future of the Internet and their early accomplishments bode well.

Is this style of leadership applicable in all situations? As Jonathan Zittrain said in his remarks on OneWebDay, “all the beer apps on facebook and one-word twitters are crap and I love them because noone knows where it will all lead”.

Most organizations are concerned about the quality of their products and services, and are protective of their brand. Imagine what they could accomplish with a more wiki-style of leadership.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Inspirational Leaders: What Do Women Want?

I was on a panel for consumer insight at Levi's this week, which is gathering women's opinions about the future and the cultural environment. I'm sure they will distill all of the expert's opinions in hopes of capturing a greater share of women's clothing purchases. Here are some of their questions:

What are the current movements and ideas that resonate with women, and why?

Anything positive, humorous, intelligent, ironic, surprising, entertaining, optimistic, self-determining, individualistic, and green. Social networking and Twitter-induced intimacy with wider circles, Mommy bloggers, Dooce, and a generation less defined by aging.

What is surprising about women lately?

Despite all our progress, it is surprising that Sarah Palin appeals to so many women. She appeals to the smallness in each of us. She's a mean girl and that seems so last century to me.

How will these surprises impact the future?

Hold us back. Obama represents the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, and as Deepak Chopra pointed out, that can cause a backlash of fear.

Who is making an impact? Those that inspire through hope and optimism. Entrepeneurs and those creating their own lives through smaller enterprise; fewer people are joining the behemoths that my generation funneled into.

Who are the most influential women around the world?

Oprah, Segolene Royale, Michelle Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma for her courage and light, Misty May Trainer and Kerry Washington, Dana Torres, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenburg, up and coming: Judith Warner, Gail Collins, Deceased: Benazir Bhutto, Wendy Wasserman, Barbara Olson. Fabulous comic named Julie Goldman, Alice Munro, Anna Gavalda (French writer), Chellie Pingree, Sandra Day Oconnor, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Arianna Huffington, Tina Fey, Dooce blogger, Angela Merkel, French Justice Minister -Rachida Dati, Dutch politician from Somalia-Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ann Richards, Madeline Albright, Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman.

What are they doing that is emotionally magnetic?

They are authentic and looking toward the future with optimism and courage. They offer a new perspective.

What future do you want to create for women?

I look to the newness that younger women bring to feminism. They have a wonderful expectation of equality, and the confidence, entrepreneurial drive and originality to create the world they envision for themselves. I applaud them. While this certainly has its naievete, it is unburdened by past encounters with the most serious forms of sexism and by the more conventional career paths trod by older women - ones which were riddled with overt discrimination. They represent the end of divisive identity politcs. They recognize that there will be barriers and they view them as individual struggles and not group struggles. Their generation represents the promise of the America.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Women's Leadership; It's the Pipeline, Stupid

While McCain nominated a woman to the second highest job, it's the Democrats who are succeding in filling the pipeline with women elected officials. In an earlier post below, I note data from Rutger's University that shows more than twice as many Democratic women elected as Republican women and that this trend is likely to worsen due to "gendermandering".

The Obama campaign needs to highlight the greater progress that Democrats deliver and pledge to work even harder to push diversity of repersentation at all levels of government, through elected and appointed positions.

From a September 9th, NYT editorial, “Women and minorities are not the novelty they once were in Congress, statehouses and legislatures, or even, starting with this election, on the presidential campaign trail. But elective office is still overwhelmingly a white male occupation. A new study suggests that may have less to do with the glass ceiling than with the pipeline: too few women and minorities are being appointed to top state jobs where they can get the experience and the public attention to establish a political career.

The report, from the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at the State University of New York at Albany, tallied how many women and minorities were appointed by governors in the 50 states to leadership jobs between 1997 and 2007. The answer is: not enough. Of 1,834 top state jobs — including advisers to governors, department and commission heads — 643 were held by female appointees, or about 35 percent of the total. Minorities held less than 16 percent… For leaders to rise from the mix that is America, governors need to cast a wider net for appointees today.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Going Against the Grain: Endorsing Superstars

A huge thank you to Delaine Eastin, formerly the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, for endorsing Sophie Hahn. Sophie is running for the Berkeley City Council against an incumbent with a lackluster record. Sophie is a true superstar and seeks to raise the bar of excellence in her community. She is a Stanford trained attorney, former small business owner, lifelong activist and mother of three. She is also a graduate of Emerge America, the premier national training program for Democratic women who want to run for office. Here's the problem: her opponent has a lock on all the local endorsements.

To get fresh women's faces into politics, we need to think outside the box. Most local endorsements come from within the community. Incumbents, absent a scandal, are almost guarnteed insider endorsements even with mediocre performance. We can get around this by encouraging well-respected prominent folks committed to women of excellence to lend their names to this kind of campaign. You can show your support for Sophie by lending your name to her campaign at http://www.sophiehahn.com/.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Top Tips to Conventioneering and World Class Schnoring

I made a very last minute decision to go to Denver last week for the Democratic convention and had exactly zero tickets to anything. I quickly discovered these tips.

1. Prepare to invest a good part of your time basking around for tickets to glamorous parties, VIP upgrades, and credentials for the evening speeches. Conventions provide an opportunity to practice speed-patronage, hoarding, back-scratching, and schnoring.

2. Bring extra batteries for your cell phone. You will blaze through your battery with the furious texting.

3. It’s all about getting into the flow to get tickets. You have to ask favors, be ready to accept generous offers and be prepared to hoard a little to return favors.

4. If you have no other plans, hang out in the lobby of the main hotels. It will be like old home week, a reunion for your life. You’ll see people you didn’t even know were involved in politics.

5. Make it a game and skip the inherent status anxiety. All week long, the Google-Vanity Fair party was the party to go to - the crown jewel. I tried all the angles for getting tickets - to no avail. I even agreed to do a fundraiser for an out-of-state politician in the general gush of goodwill at the convention, "We can do ANYTHING!"

6. Don't give up. We were getting ready to go home from an after-party after Obama accepted his nomination. I was talking to my dear friend Norm, the uber brilliant litigator, founder of CREW, supporter of state’s attorney generals, and Obama fundraiser and advisor and some of Norm's friends decided they were too exhausted to go and gave us their tickets at 11:00pm.

7. Don't be too literal with party rules. The tickets to the glittering Google party had a hitch. They were non-transferable. We went anyhow and they ushered us in. Norm knew every federal elected and swanned me around - an incredible cap to a glorious week for Democrats.

8. Thank your patrons. John Rogers, I couldn't have done it without you. THANK YOU!!!

Time for Obama to Increase the Visibility of Democratic Women's Leadership

With Hillary holdouts and the Palin announcement, Barack must make clear that the promise of women's leadership is delivered by the Democratic party.

The numbers speak for themselves:

In the US Senate, women hold 11 Democratic Senate seats and 5 Republican Senate seats. Advantage Democrats 2.2 to 1. Likewise, in the US House, there are 51D and 20R plus 3D Delegates. Advantage Democrat 2.7:1. In State government, women Democrats hold 1.7 times the number of Republican seats. (Source: Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. )

This trend will only worsen with continued gerrymandering or what I call "gendermandering".
Women are viewed by voters as more liberal than their male counterparts. Therefore, as districts become safer for their respective parties, more Democratic women and fewer Republican women will get elected and Republicans will have to work doubly hard to get their women candidates into office. I don't see that happening. Republican used to invest in trainig programs for Republican women, the Excellence in Public Service Series that is present in 20 states. That funding stopped during the second Bush administration, just as these programs became ever more critical.

Barack Obama and the Democratic Party need to introduce a more visible approach to Democratic women’s leadership. As the saying goes, when Democratic women vote, Democrats win. I propose that Barack Obama support the following:

1. Pledge to appoint more women to senior administration positions than any of his predecessors.

2. Increase support for leadership development of Democratic women in politics at every level. This includes DNC monies for groups like Emerge America, Loretta Durbin’s IWIL, and Emily’s List training programs.

3. Show leadership through the party apparatus and direct DNC, and state and local Democratic parties to recruit and support women candidates.

4. Support research into constraints on women’s leadership through groups like the White House Project and the Women's Campaign Forum (which are non-partisan), and academics at Rutgers' Center for American Women and Politics, and elsewhere.

5. Increase support for women’s leadership in developing countries through AID.

Women vote more heavily for Democrats because of Democratic policies. And women candidates energize women to get out and vote. To win this election, we need women to more visibly see that Democrats deliver vastly more women's leadership and the policies they want.