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April 24, 2013

NEAL: Pence’s leadership challenge

(Continued)

Consider Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal. Widely recognized as a rising Republican star, Jindal’s been credited with reforming state government, boosting the state’s business climate and a host of other policy innovations.

Just last week, Jindal abandoned his bold proposal to eliminate his state’s income tax and replace it with a higher sales tax and a broader sales tax base. With solid Republican majorities, he should have been able to get it through.

His own partisans said he failed to make the case. “Too ambitious,” said one. (Notably, under Jindal’s tax plan, Louisiana’s sales-tax rate would still have been lower than Indiana’s).

Even where Republicans are firmly in control, they are acting scared. Some of this is fear of losing the next election. Some is fear of the news media whose liberal bias is documented. Some is not knowing how to lead.

Stephen M. King, professor of political science at Taylor University, is writing a book about political leadership with the working title “Leadership Adrift.” It will offer a recipe of sorts for morally transformative and effective management.

His thesis is that for leaders to succeed they must exhibit strong character, accountability to the community and “fidelity to authority.” The latter means they stick to their constitutional job descriptions to accomplish their goals. A morally transformative leader would not use the regulatory process to achieve legislative aims, for example.

King agrees with other analysts that Pence seems overly cautious. He suspects Pence is struggling with the transition from representing one geographic district in Congress to representing all of the people of Indiana. Complicating the picture is the existence of factions within the Republican Party. Despite their supermajority status, Republicans are “standing still,” King said.

The management guru, Peter F. Drucker, advises leaders, “Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you.” 

In that advice, there’s good news for Pence. His term is still young, he’s got plenty of energy and — at least for now — there’s a Statehouse full of Republicans to orchestrate.

— Andrea Neal is adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Contact her at aneal@inpolicy.org

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