Game Change

I wrote yesterday that Game Change is possibly my favorite read of the summer. Whatever your political views, the 2008 presidential election cycle was high drama and full of compelling stories. The authors focus on four campaigns (Obama, Clinton, Edwards, McCain), providing all kinds of interesting background.

There are, undoubtedly, numerous reasons why Obama won. But as I was reading two aspects of Obama’s campaign stood out to me again and again:

  1. The Obamans (as the authors refer to the campaign) had a motto: no-drama-obama. They knew stuff would come up, they new their opponents would hit them hard, but throughout the whole thing Obama was about at straight-line as you can be. Very few ups and downs, very few emotional outbursts, and a lot of methodical, rational decision-making. Clinton on the other hand: wildly emotional, a roller coaster of highs and lows. McCain: wanted as little information provided to him as possible (Obama on the other hand puts baseball nerds to shame with the amount of information he processes)…as a result McCain was all over the place, following his gut instincts to the bitter end. Edwards, well, you can only imagine the drama there.
  2. The other fascinating thing to me was this: Clinton, Edwards, and McCain all had one person on their team who was highly competent and extremely dysfunctional. Extremely. (You could argue that Hillary had two of these people in her camp if you include her husband). Each of these people caused fissures on their team that proved, in the end, to be fatal. Obama had some personalities on his team too. But, the Obamans got caught up in the historical nature of the campaign (you might say they remained focused on the mission) and that kept some of the personality and ego issues to a minimum.

Fascinating stuff and a lot of implications for leaders: keep things steady and focused and choose your team well!

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