Politics and punditry operate at the surface. Storms, like summer squalls on a mountain lake, swoop in, blow fiercely, then are gone. We often cannot see or tell what is going on beneath the surface; we cannot discern the direction or even the existence of the deep currents. We intuit they are there, and also suspect they may be the most important things to watch; but the cotton candy and drama constantly pull us away. They distract us, sometimes absolutely.
An integral leader, which Obama is, does not get distracted. He or she knows what is happening on the surface, in front of our eyes, and also what are the directions of the deeper currents. They know, or at least suspect, what is trying to emerge. They work with values and vision and identity, knowing that complex systems always tend to self-organize, moving in the direction of their vision, their yearning, their identity. Chaos science calls these strange attractors - a kind of 3 dimensional pattern, or basin in the universe that a chaotic system will limit or coordinate its movements, in order to honor the pattern. The new sciences tell us that chaotic, complex systems are very difficult to manage; but they can be influenced, steered, possibly, through three key system variables: identity, information, and relationships. Work with these effectively, and the most complex system can begin to self-organize, moving towards its agreed upon identity, its chosen North Star.
This is how Obama works. Some call it his Long Game. I call it that, plus I say he is working with the Deep Currents, mostly ignoring the Surface Storms.
Over the next few weeks, I want to look in six key areas to see how the President has worked initially to influence the self-identity of the emerging conversation and policy, and then has mostly pulled back to let the system self-organize, reentering the emerging conversation when needed:
- Healthcare -
- Budgets: Deficits and Debt -
- Syria and Iran -
- Immigration -
- Financial Regulation -
- Democrats vs. GOP -
You might want to say that this will be a multi-part essay on Leading from Behind, which is the way an Integral Leader leads, at least most of the time. And you would not be wrong.