Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Whiff of Leadership?

In the last hour of trading Friday November 21, the stock market staged a significant rally.

The cause of the rally?

The leaked news that President-elect Obama was going to choose Timothy Geithner, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as the next Secretary of the Treasury.

Market participants…hungry for leadership of any kind…reacted with enthusiasm to this possibility and began to buy. As I wrote in my blog of November 20, “Discipline or the Lack Thereof”,, the market, more than anything else right now, is thirsting for leadership.

It has also been leaked that on Monday President-elect Obama will introduce his economics team. Doing this will reduce a lot of uncertainty that has been hanging over the markets and provide some insight into the direction an Obama Presidency will head. If anything, Obama is showing with his choices that he is not afraid to have strong and intelligent people around him and will not be cowered by the presence of such people. In fact, he gives off the impression that he will thrive in such an environment.

And, the people he has indicated that he will appoint are pragmatic and successful people. They find what works!

I know there are many that are disappointed in the choices that Obama is making because they don’t think that these choices represent the “change” that Obama promised in the campaign. I think that they are wrong in this charge.

As I have written in many of my blog-posts, LEADERSHIP BEGINS AT THE TOP! It is the top person that sets the culture and it is the top person that sets the agenda. Change will come because the person at the top requests that those that report to him/her provide options that incorporate change. But, this kind of change is not going to take place with a bunch of neophytes that have to learn the ropes of government first and are unproven in working at this level of issue and pressure.

There must be tested members of the team…especially at this time! But, the charge that is given the team and encouraged is to provide some new answers and solutions to the problems that are now being faced. Top quality members of the team will jump at this opportunity and, with the continued strong guidance coming from the chief executive officer, they will produce results. Good leadership raises the level of performance of all those around the leader. As we have seen in the last eight years or so…weak leadership results in the sub-par performance of all those around the leader and none escape with an unblemished record.

One can be happy with the choices that are being made and still be concerned about the future of the financial markets and the economy. There is still a lot of bad news to come in the future. As Obama, himself, has said…there cannot be two Presidents at the same time. The new administration will not take office until January 20, 2009. And, even so, economies do not reverse direction overnight and there are a lot of dislocations in the United States economy and the world that need to be worked out.

There is still great concern that financial institutions have not really discovered or revealed just how badly their assets portfolios are underwater. The layoffs and dismissals of employees are growing and we have not seen how badly this is going to affect the spending of the consumer. The housing market still seems to be declining and no one knows how the situation with respect to foreclosures and mortgages that exceed housing prices are going to be worked out. With respect to businesses, bankruptcies are still increasing and a great deal of industrial restructuring is going to have to take place even though firms don’t go into bankruptcy. State and local governments are in bad shape financially. And, what about nonprofit organizations? Educational institutions? The sports and entertainment industries? And, so on and so on…

We are just in the early stages of this reconstruction of the United States…and the world…economy. Even with the best of appointments, the United States…and the world…is going to have to go through the process of restructuring.

However, let’s concentrate on what seems to be the good news for the present time. President-elect Obama is making appointments that are giving financial market participants some hope. Even though there is still a long, difficult road ahead of us…we will gravitate toward any sign of positive leadership that is available and hang on to the hope that is present in the possibility that that leadership will take us where we need to go!

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