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USD Professors Comment on Leadership Involved in Finding bin Laden

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Washington Post -- Question: Finding and killing Osama bin Laden has required focus, patience and persistence from presidents and top government officials over a decade of repeated setbacks--qualities that are in short supply in a world where time horizons are becoming increasingly short. How can leaders resist the natural temptation to move on to other priorities when goals begin to look like they might be out of reach?

Tenacity and clear-eyed focus are two traits that are in demand yet difficult to muster when crises are in abundance and everything seems to be a high priority. The attention span of the public is notoriously short, so political leaders who chase public opinion are tempted to rapidly shift priorities. Leaders do their organizations a real service when they articulate a clear vision and dedicate sufficient resources to its accomplishment.  Not everything can be a top priority, and it is easy to give teams whiplash with rapidly changing objectives. If everything is a priority then nothing is a priority. (Read more of George Reed's Response)

A leader’s priorities are defined by where they put their limited resources. The president did this one well: He gave this goal to one of his strong subordinates and told him this was a top priority. I don’t believe that finding bin Laden should have been the president’s top priority, even in the current war, but telling CIA director Leon Panetta that it was a top priority for him (and requesting regular updates) ensured that someone with responsibility and authority would stay focused on that goal, and would keep him informed. (Read more of Bob Schoultz's response)

ContactMelissa Wagoner | mwagoner@sandiego.edu | (619) 260-4659