Lunching with the Enemy: why building alliances with detractors is a smart move

I suspect many people were glued to their television sets watching the results of the United States presidential election last year and followed their favourite newscasters as they speculated on what President Obama needed to do during his second term in office.

I particularly like CNN, specifically, David Gergen, senior political analyst and past advisor to four US presidents. Mr. Gergen was asked a specific question on what he thought Obama needed to accomplish in his next term as US president. Mr Gerber stated that without a doubt, this time around President Obama needed to build relationships in Washington and he then shared an interesting observation. He pointed out that President Obama, in his first four years of office played approximately 105 golf games, but only one was played with Republicans. Clearly, Mr. Gerber understands the necessity of building relationships outside the political arena over more relaxed circumstances.

However, look at the ridicule that President Obama has garnered with what the media has dubbed his “charm offensive” when he invited Republicans to dinner, to have a conversation in a different type of surrounding. I think the President deserves a great deal of praise for taking the initiative to not only start the conversation but for his attempts to build relationships in order to get the work done.

Many senior leaders talk about the importance of relationships, but few actually make the attempt to build relationships, particularly across party lines in this case, but also across organizational or divisional lines. It is the enlightened leader, in this case the President, who is willing to reach out to his adversaries for lack of a better term, for the sake of the country.

It really is not surprising since many of us now know that President Obama has modeled his presidency on that of Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln as well, invited his rivals to join his cabinet, because he thought they were the best men in the country, even though he knew they all thought that they deserved to be president, and actually tried to undermine him on more than one occasion. It takes an outstanding leader to do what Lincoln did, and he did it for the sake of his country.

We have much to learn from the lessons of history as well as from leaders such as Lincoln. Perhaps senior leaders in organizations can benefit from building relationships across organizations so that the best possible business outcomes can be achieved as a whole, rather than everyone taking care of their own backyard?

[fancy_box]Frank Soriano is a Toronto based keynote speaker and workshop facilitator.
Contact Frank via web:; email:
or phone: 416 833-7444.[/fancy_box]

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