I was thinking about leadership while running this morning. Since I began writing this blog nearly a year ago, many of my posts have focused on leadership — and qualities such as honesty, empathy and character that lead to credibility and trust. Those are certainly the keys to effective public relations. And they create a profile of managerial traits as well — important for the president and other elected leaders, business executives and football coaches.
During the past week or so — with the stock market actually having a few up days — maybe we are getting a “leadership bounce” as President-elect Obama puts together his administration. Obama looks and acts like a leader — and he has credibility and trust going for him. Let’s hope that continues. It might be the most important change that he brings to the White House.
And that’s the problem we have now with The Decider in Chief — as he redefines the meaning of lame-duck and waits to head back to Texas. Most people stopped trusting him months, maybe years, ago. And he has no credibility — or clout. Jay Rosen made that point yesterday on Twitter as he was commenting on an article about Dana Perino that Howard Kurtz wrote in The Washington Post Monday, “The Final Days.”
President Bush has faded from the news, and the past year has been hard on his press secretary as she tried to follow his orders not to defend him from the verbal assaults of the campaign to succeed him.
“We took it from all sides, and it was difficult,” Perino says. “When you’re that close to your boss, it’s hard sometimes not to take it personally.”
Perino has done an OK job given the hand she was dealt — spokesperson for an ineffective leader who lost the confidence of his team, the American people.
Which gets me to Romeo Crennal, the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns are 4-7, coming of a dismal loss Sunday at home to the Houston Texans. The detainees at Gitmo would have known what real torture is like had they been forced to watch the last quarter of that game. I digress.
So now the speculation is that Crennal will be fired, if not in the next week or so then certainly following the last game in Pittsburgh Dec. 28.
That’s too bad. I think Crennal is a leader. Whether technically he is a good football coach I have no idea. But he has maintained his credibility and, in my view at least, professional dignity. He refuses to blame the players. He takes responsibility for the team’s poor performance. He has been a reassuring public face for the team as the general manager has been off in a corner sending expletive-included e-mails to fans and covering up the reasons for the hospitalization of Kellen Winslow with a staph infection.
And most importantly, Crennal appears to have maintained the respect of his players.
“I’m the head coach and the buck stops at my desk,” he said. “It’s my charge. If we don’t win games, it’s on me. We’ve got coaches who work very hard to try to get a good plan, try to put it out there, try to get the guys to execute and when the team doesn’t play well, it falls on the head coach.
“Just like when the offense doesn’t do well, it falls on the quarterback, rightly or wrongly. But this position, the scrutiny goes with it.”
Given all that, before the Browns fire Romeo Crennal someone may want to take a serious look at the front office personnel and some of the players.
But then I guess it’s easy to fire football coaches. With presidents — you have to wait for them to fade away.