With an
economy in despair and a country at war, President Barack Obama will face
tremendous challenges as the 44th president of the United


Obama will have a
passel of advisers and no shortage of suggestions from the public, the pundits
and the GOP. But his to-do list is daunting, and the new president will need to
move quickly to master the most demanding management job in the world.


With that in mind,
several Kellogg School professors share their insights on what Obama needs to
do to deliver on his oft-repeated promise of “change you can believe in.”




Daniel Diermeier, IBM Distinguished Professor of
Regulation and Competitive Practice


“A major goal on the
foreign-policy side should be to restore trust in Brand USA. The difficulty is
that there are also some very real interests that won't disappear, whether that
is respect to Europe over trade issues or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The
question is, how do you improve and reestablish trust in the United States and
its government in this context? Research on trust suggests the critical
importance of transparency, sustained commitment, competence, and finally, a
sense of empathy. All these things are important factors that restore trust.


There is a
similarity of trust issues on the domestic side: over the last year there has
been an erosion of trust in some of our key institutions. The difference or
additional challenge domestically is that there are very few presidents who
come into office with as high expectations as those with respect to
President-elect Obama. People have a lot of trust in him, but these trust
accounts can be emptied very quickly with some ill-considered decisions. But if
this is carefully managed and there is the continued sense of transparency,
accountability, and professionalism that has been displayed during the
campaign, the Obama administration will have a lot of capital to work with.”


Communicate principles and priorities


Galinsky, Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in


“President Obama
needs to articulate broad principles. That’s what made Reagan such an effective
leader because he came in with a few, specific broad principles as he entered
office (strong defense combined with low taxes to stimulate the economy). These
principles can then serve as the guiding force behind specific policy


Obama also has to set priorities. Many studies show that the first 100 days are
crucial for the president. He wants to make specific priorities when he has the
highest political capital. He doesn’t want to squander this time and this opportunity.
He doesn’t want to tackle issues that are going to lead to tense reactions,
such as when President Clinton engaged the military on gays (despite having no
military background). One of the natural consequences of power is that it makes
people optimistic and can make them overconfident. Obama wants to harness the
optimism to inspire people but he doesn’t want to overreach.


“Third, he needs to
staff his executive well. Competence should come first, even if his appointees
have been rivals. People speak in glowing terms of Lincoln’s team of rivals,
but reaching out across the partisan divide makes for better policy and commitments
from more congresspersons.


“Finally, he needs
to lead but also listen. Studies show that when people feel listened to, even
when they don’t get their ideal outcome, they are less resentful.”


contacts and collaborate


Murnighan, Harold H. Hines Jr. Professor of Risk Management


Obama needs to make very strong contacts and collaborate. The United States is
in a powerful position, but the more we flaunt our power, the worse it is. If
the powerful party is forthcoming with information about its outlook and
strategies, the weaker parties can adapt, can disagree and can make requests.
They know where you are coming from and you’re not surprising them. They may
not be happy with all of your decisions, but they respect you for being
forthcoming with them and that can build a positive relationship even in a
contentious situation.


“Obama is going to
be subject to criticism when he makes unilateral moves but it’s necessary if
he’s going to move ahead. It will be appreciated if he is bringing in ideas and
other points of view from the other side of the aisle in Congress. They will want
to know the decisions he’s going to make before he makes them even if they are
not being consulted. They just want the respect of being told and a reason why.
I have high hopes that he will open the doors and have conversations when he
should and not open the door when he shouldn’t.”