10 Reasons Why Obama Should Appoint Romney as Secretary of Business

In a surprising move, President Obama has appointed Governor Romney as Secretary of Business, in charge of new business creation and with the mandate to drastically simplify the regulations for small businesses.

Fantasy, you say? Yes, for now, but this would be a brilliant move. Here’s why.

Obama needs to demonstrate what he means by change. Obama’s second term is, among many things, about fixing Washington’s gridlock, putting America back to work, and delivering on the American people’s wish for change. A defeated Republican Presidential candidate as a key Cabinet member would definitely be a good way to state that Obama is serious about fixing the gridlock.

Business is Romney’s specialty. Business is also arguably the area where Obama’s first term achieved the weakest results. This was Romney’s claim, but the American people likely agree for the most part. In fact, there is a widespread belief that if the 2012 Presidential election had indeed been simply a verdict on the economy, Obama would have lost.

Fixing the gridlock in Washington demands grand gestures. Both Obama and Romney have talked about the importance of reaching across the aisle. True bipartisanship must be concrete. You must have something to show for. It also demands great symbolic acts of faith. Romney as Secretary of Business would definitely be an act of faith.

Obama has succeeded with surprising appointments before. When Obama defeated Hillary, he realized two things: he needed to heal the divisions in the party and he needed support from the Clinton camp. What did he do? He appointed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. This was a surprising, smart move which rapidly healed the wounds the defeat had made, at least in the eyes of the public.

Obama would rub in Romney’s flip flopping nature. President Obama would in one move show the contradictions of Mitt Romney (during his campaign, Romney said there was no point in having both a Secretary of Commerce and a Secretary of Business)

Obama would show there is opportunity for all. Paradoxically, by putting Romney on the job, Obama would also demonstrate that he is prepared to put the best people in the top jobs in his second term, regardless of background. This would be change. This would be the new, emerging America, one where all ethnicities and social demographics should be electable for office—even rich white men with track record from Wall Street and Bain Capital. There were times during the recession and during the campaign where it seemed Obama disliked the “fat cats” so much he was unable to listen to any of their advice.

Romney would reach across the aisle. Being the Secretary of Business is likely a real vantage point from which it would be possible to demonstrate real leadership that matters to jobless, entrepreneurial, hardworking Americans. These were issues he campaigned on. Spending 800 million dollars on a campaign would then have been a worthwhile investment. His legacy, almost regardless of whether he himself would generate true improvements, would be that of a pragmatic business person with real intention to make politics work for business. Paradoxically, with Romney, the Secretary of Business might actually become important. Without him, the role might be unclear at best. It would get lost among other Cabinet roles and would add little value.

Republicans would get an ideal platform to renew the GOP. Republicans would get a chance to make contributions to their favorite agenda: favoring business. They would get a chance to show that this also means helping small business. Romney would need to make his ideas concrete: he would help bring about tax reform, regulatory simplification etc. If Romney succeeded, Republicans would have a real card to show for the 2016 Presidential elections: their bipartisan efforts enabled tax reform, made entrepreneurship and business creation the competitive advantage of America again. The alternative; four more years of gridlock, would certainly not help the GOP.

Obama would get credit for trying to fix his relationship to business. He would have put the person near half of America’s electorate believes is the best for the top job in charge of one of the key priorities of the nation: helping business to ensure economic recovery across the board. Obama would also take a step closer to Wall Street again, after a few missteps and mistrust.

Obama and Romney working together would be leadership from below. Appointing Romney as Secretary of Business, both Obama and Romney would embody true leadership from below. They would demonstrate a willingness to contribute wherever their skills are needed, regardless of prior formal position. Leadership from below is a question of attitude, not position.

In reality, of course, Americans wish that Washington would realize that America—its demographics, ambitions, methods, even its identity—has already changed. What America has changed into, is going to be the central question of Obama’s second term. It will demand even more of Obama than appointing Mitt Romney as Secretary of Business, but it is a start.

10 Ways To Gain Energy From A Long-Haul Flight

In-flight safety demonstration on board a Luft...

Image via Wikipedia

Flying used to drain my energy. Whether on a short or long flight, I could not sleep. I could not rest. I felt crammed. I got stressed. I was inconvenienced by airport security. All of this went on for many years. Then, I decided not to wait to be comfortable until I was in a position of control, could travel business class or could avoid flying altogether. Rather, I decided it was a question of attitude and technique. In short, I started applying my very own principles of leadership from below to air travel. Overnight, I started looking at a flight as a relief. I actually gained energy from it. In fact, even on long-haul flights, I rarely get to all my planned pursuits. How did I do it? Let me explain.


1. Pick an airline

With fear of sounding like a marketing agent for frequent flyer programmes, pick an airline and stick to it. Not only will you have a quicker check-in, get lounge access, board early, and get your luggage early, you will also know more about what do do if anything about your travel situation changes. You will be aware what generally happens if the flight is delayed or cancelled. You will know the layout of the aircraft for each particular route so you can pick the best seat. You may even get to know the call center, cabin crews or check-in staff, which can come in very handy.


Many would instinctively pick a window seat to be undisturbed and to look at the sky. Fine. However, I recommend picking an aisle seat to give you the most flexibility. You do risk having to get up several times for people who need to use the toilet or want to move around, but being blocked is not an option for me.


2. Mentally prepare for the flight

Preparation is everything. You need to start this the moment you have bought the ticket. First the mental change: start imagining you are on the flight, completely at ease, think of the things you would like to do, how you would want to relax, what you want to spend this time on. Do you mainly want to sleep, relax, study, read leisurely, watch a movie, talk to a stranger, watch people or something else? This is not only a mental exercise, it has consequences. Think of all the obstacles that are likely to occur along the way. Try to remember specifically what frustrated you on the last flight and think of remedies. Write down any major conclusions and pack it with your bag for later reference and act on it if anything is required.


3. Strategize and choose your approach

After the mental charge, you pick your main approach to the journey and ensure you are properly equipped to do or experience whatever you have decided. I am not going to assume you are exactly like me, but here is what I generally do:


Improvise, zone out, fix what you can, ignore the rest, take charge of what you can, control your environment, become a leader where you can, enjoy not having responsibility in those instances you cannot lead. Perception is reality.


4. Supercharge your carry-on

Think of your carry-on as a survival kit. Always bring two carry-ons, a personal item and a bag.


As regard your personal item, make it look like a computer bag, but make sure you can survive for a day or two on its contents.

Sound and light proofing: earplugs to block aircraft noise, an eye mask to block unwanted light.

Nutrition: pack energy bars, mints, raisins, and gum.

Edutainment: pack a fully charged laptop, pad, PDA, several of your favorite magazines and a paperback.

Work: Bring some work documents and a pen and notepad to jot down ideas.

Identification and money: passport, credit cards, a small reserve of cash in Dollar, Euro and local currency.

Emergency equipment: bring a miniature flash light and first-aid kit.

Clothing: pack a cashmere sweater, scarf, and a change of underwear.

Toiletries: weigh the pros and cons of putting toiletries in your personal item allowed onboard. I always do since I never check luggage and because if I am forced to gate-check my bag, I am not left without means.

Information: bring phone numbers to all major airlines, your doctor, your emergency contact, and a few friends in a large radius between your departure and your destination.


As regards your carry-on bag as such, this is where you pack everything you need for a week. Pack a maximum of 5 sets of underwear. Bring dry washing powder sheet and plan to wash or dry clean your clothes every 3 days. Roll all your clothes. Use packing cubes for ease. On business trips, I regularly manage for several weeks on a small bag.


5. Launch your own pre-boarding prep

Sixty minutes before boarding, you should take a shower. Yes, it is possible if you have lounge access, and it is very much worth it. Thirty minutes before boarding, buy and/or consume a bottle of water, take a melatonin tablet (I use SleepMD), and eat so you are all set, if need be for the whole journey. Make sure you have time to use the bathroom before you board. Prepare for the flight, think about what you will do with the time on the plane, prepare for the inevitable stresses of boarding. Visualize what will happen. Remember that you have done it many times before. Make sure you are relaxed.


6. Find your own boarding routine

Boarding is not something the airline does to you. It is your chance to influence the crew. Actually, starting with check-in staff (who may turn out to be crew members for what you know), make sure you make a good impression. Be polite, ask questions about the flight, make yourself known, compliment their behavior or actions if at all possible. Generally, it is good to board as soon as you can, so you can fill the overhead compartments with your stuff directly above your seat. Frequent flyer status is great for this purpose, so make sure you always stick to the same airline.


7. Scan and screen fellow passengers

Most people approach fellow air passengers as if they were a random crowd. Doing so, they ignore most of the social dynamics in place and miss opportunities to exploit the characteristics of their particular sample of humankind. In fact, initial screening can be done while still in the terminal.


When you board the flight, make sure you make eye contact with each flight attendant you pass on your way. Smile. You are stuck with these people for hours. On the positive side, they are the only authority you will have to deal with for a while, or at least it may seem so. In reality, on board an airplane there is plenty of hierarchy to reckon with. Keeping this in mind, keep an observant eye and nod politely as you pass through the cabin with the first-class and business passengers. Also, make sure you are friendly with the people with aisle seats who can get up whenever they please and control other people’s exit options.


Then, make sure you are aware of the seat assignments of every parent traveling with kids. The reason is, they command unique attention from flight attendants and could also be a source (and extinguisher) of excess noise. As you pass through the aircraft, note various categories of people, the overweight who might impose themselves on the nearby seats or contribute to congestion, the new couples or teenagers who might talk all the way.


In fact, make sure you do a sweep of everybody in eyesight. Who might they be? Will they pose a threat to your relaxation? Are there any networking opportunities? A potential match? If any of those apply, try to move seats so you are closer to your target(s) or further from perceived problem spots. Finally, for your own safety, keep a watchful eye on suspicious or violent behavior. You would want to be part of the solution, or alternatively sit far away if you so please, should intervention be needed.


8. Scan a good radius around your own seat

Once you have found your seat, immediately put in your earplugs. I have found you can still hear what flight attendants tell you. The only thing to remember is to talk very loudly, as your own perception of the way your voice carries changes when you wear earplugs. After all, you only need to deploy a few expressions: “yes/no”, “orange juice/water, please”, and “thank you”. I cannot think of many other expressions that are useful if you want to conserve energy on a flight. In place of speech, use mimicry, body language, and facial expressions.


Think very carefully before you start a dialogue with the person(s) seated next to you. In all likelihood, you have made a choice that affects the whole flight. If you must talk to people, it is actually wiser to choose the people you meet in the hallway or in the bathroom queue, since you can always retreat to your seat. In short, think of your seat as your kingdom’s walled garden. It is nobody’s but your own. Develop a mental protective perimeter and let nobody disturb you.


Once you have your seat, it is time to domesticate the nearby environment. Check overhead compartments for extra pillows and blankets. Once boarding is completed, go on a scavenge hunt for whatever pillows and blankets remain. They will cushion and warm you and might mean the difference between a few hours sleep and angry restlessness. Make yourself comfortable, put on your seatbelt, put on your eye mask and relax. Now, even before the flight has departed, is the time to get some rest.


9. Divide the time into tasks during the flight

People say flying is boring. I find I seldom get done all of the things I wanted to do. Depending on how tired I am, I divide my time into five tasks: rest, work, thinking, eating and sleeping. Five is quite a lot. Just think about it, in 20-minute increments you can only get five slots. In hourly increments you can only get 1 slot for each. I try to set goals for each activity and I always bring pen and paper. A computer is of course useful, but not essential. Airplane time is quite unique. I never have this much time away from the web, the phone, the kids, or meetings.


10. Activate immediately after the flight

Some people would say you should rest after you fly. I do the opposite. I find that after such a concentrated time in one seat, I need to move around. Usually, the best option is working intensely for a few hours, working out for an hour, then getting a massage or hitting the sauna. After that, a dinner with friends is usually a great option or simply crash at an early bedtime, local time. I used to be horrible with jet lag, and the basic operation of my biological clock have not changed. However, I have learned to manipulate my natural tendency to stop functioning even after a few hours of jet lag, using leadership from below.


The Leader Who Had No Title

Cover of "The Leader Who Had No Title: A ...

Cover via Amazon

Since I wrote Leadership From Below in 2008, there has been a steady flow of management books about bottom-up leadership. In The Leader Who Had No Title (2010), speaker Robin Sharma has put together a modern fable on success in business and in life. There are no revolutionary insights in this book, but its speaks to the frustrated, overworked American, which seems to be in the majority. Sharma also avoids being too patronizing. Instead of the traditional format he chooses a narrative form, which incidentally, means that instead of offering any kind of evidence, we are asked to trust the experience of the author indirectly.

We follow Blake, an uninspired worker who is presented with the chance to meet four somewhat unlikely leadership teachers in one day, a maid who is deeply passionate about her job, a surfer and skier who says to lean in on the steep slopes, seek out and face danger head on,  a former CEO now passionate about gardening who explains that business is all about relationships, and a shoe shiner who says you need to be a great person to be a great leader. All are lessons that ring true in the postmodern leadership scene where results only come if you balance your pursuits so that life and work mesh together.

The message might still be a bit radical for most people, although those who have thought about life and death more than once might agree at times:

All those things we believed were so important, things like titles, net worth and social position turn out to be so very unimportant.

As I predicted several years ago, it seems like the Zen of everyday life is becoming key to the western man and woman’s quest to reinvent reality.

But does that mean that hierarchies are going away? Or, does it mean that making a contribution as a team leader, a manager, a VP or a CEO does not matter anymore? Far from it, in my opinion.  The Forbes book reviewer and himself a leadership expert, SangeethVarghese, has it wrong, though, in dismissing the book in Everyone must be a leader. So What?:

Sharma seems to confuse leadership with mere exemplary work. He depicts leadership as a matter not of heading a team or directing change but simply of focusing on excellence in the work you do.

Rather, leadership from below, which is more an attitude to life regardless of your various roles, becomes important even as hierarchies matter. So, both Sangeeth and Robin are right: whatever you do, only take the lead if you mean it.

%d bloggers like this: