What leadership is

How do you run a large institution that is critical to the functioning of our economy but steeped in intertia, prcoess and politics? That sounds like pretty much every workplace on the planet, but in Ben Bernanke’s place it also happens to be the Federal Reserve. Bernanke and the Fed are not only tasked with, among other things, balancing the U.S. money supply and ensuring appropriate liquidity in our economy so people can consume goods and services, but now must also navigate the current economic crisis and kick-start cash flows through the economy again.

The Los Angeles Times on 4/10/09 reprinted a Washington Post article about Ben Bernanke and his management style. The report finds that “Bernanke has transformed the stodgy organization, invoking rarely used emergency powers. His decision to do so has drawn criticism — he has transcended traditional limits on the role of a central bank, stretched the Fed’s legal authority and to some, usurped the responsibility of political authorities in committing vast sums of taxpayer dollars.”

Change isn’t easy. How is Bernanke pulling it off (so far)?

What strikes many who have worked with Bernanke, though, is that he has pulled it all off without grand speeches, arm-twisting or Machiavellian games. Rather, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former Fed officials and others familiar with the workings of the central bank, he has enacted bold policy moves through measured, intellectual debates and by making even those who are resistant to some of the new actions feel that their concerns are understood.

To many Fed veterans, Bernanke’s leadership style is a stark contrast with that of his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, whose tenure was characterized by tightly controlled decision-making with only rare open disagreement.

Business, as in life, is very zen. Sometimes the people who talk the loudest are the ones who talk the least.


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