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Jena McGregor

Jena McGregor

Staff writer Jena McGregor teases out the leadership issues in the day’s news.

Tom Fox

Tom Fox

Guest contributor Tom Fox, of the Partnership for Public Service, writes weekly about issues in the federal workplace.

Lillian Cunningham

Lillian Cunningham

Lillian Cunningham is the editor of On Leadership and writes features for the section.


Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and senior director of Harvard Project Zero.
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Politicians can’t expect commendation for bipartisanship

Question: As the Senate’s “Gang of Six” struggle to come to agreement on a bipartisan budget plan, they are under intense social pressure from their caucus colleagues to abandon the effort and stick with the party line. In a clubby place like the Senate, social ostracism can be a real concern. From your experience, what role does social pressure on leaders play in their decision-making and how should leaders deal with it?

Idealism and generosity of spirit are not rewarded in today's charged and costly political climate. And so senators who are willing to work on a bipartisan budget need to devote a lot of time to explaining what they are doing and why: to their colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, and to the general public.

Nor can they expect to be commended for doing so. They need to be buoyed by the knowledge that such bipartisanship did work in times past and that if there is to be a future of the American polity, it cannot be based on reflexive partisanship. Perhaps they should give their colleagues complimentary copies of John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage.

View all panel responses to the discussion Under pressure?

Howard Gardner  | Apr 26, 2011 12:47 PM

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