The Global Manufacturer

Yes, It's a Default -- of Leadership

Is the U.S. going to continue its shutdown of the federal government and default on the $17.5 trillion it owes or will it pull away from the brink, reopen for business and raise the debt ceiling? In day 11 of the shutdown, some signs of hope are appearing for a solution.

One of the lessons to take from this ugly impasse is that poor negotiating and leadership is to blame, says David Peterson, an assistant professor in Warwick Business School’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group.

“These are two warring factions,” said Dr. Peterson. “What we are seeing here is the difference between ‘position bargaining’ and ‘principled negotiation.’ ‘Position bargaining’ is the whole idea of basically saying ‘I’m right and you’re wrong.’ When we attack like this and when we don’t acknowledge people who are right, we put them in a corner and it is very difficult to get out of.

“This method is getting more and more pervasive. One really good indicator is that you never hear somebody say ‘I am wrong’ or ‘I am sorry’ and you never hear them say ‘You are right about this’ or at least say ‘I heard what you said and I acknowledge it even if I don’t agree’ -- you never hear that.”

Peterson, who is teaching in England but is an American who earned his graduate degrees from the University of Oklahoma, says bringing in mediators would not help the situation. This is one problem that the principals will have to fix.

“We have people here who are supposed to be leaders, yet they are beholden to public opinion rather than leading public opinion. They listen to focus groups, public surveys and polls to form their policies, because they want to give what the public wants, but what we need from them is proper leadership. We want them to form opinions and stand up for what they believe in. We need them to show some leadership,” says Peterson.

“We also need them to be genuine. If we are really honest with ourselves then we wouldn’t say that ‘everything you say is wrong,’ but to do that you have to listen,” Peterson notes. “Too often when we are listening with our ears, our mind is focusing on our response; we don’t have any time to process what the other person is saying.”

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