Thursday, February 18, 2010

Erskine Bowles appointed to Obama Debt Commission.

We now know why Erskine Bowles is stepping down as President of the University of North Carolina system.
Today President Obama appointed Bowles as co-chair of a bipartisan commission to tackle the federal debt crisis.  Joining former republican senator Alan Simpson, they will form a commission that will given the task of bringing the federal budget deficit down to 3% of gross domestic product in the next five years compared to 10% today.
I had the opportunity to photograph Erskine last year for the book Secrets of Success, NC Values-Based Leadership.  He was gracious and accommodating, little aware of the impending NC State chancellor crisis that was soon on the front pages of the papers.  Out of 35 individuals that were included in the book, this was the one incident that may have caused us a certain amount of regret for including him had his leadership faltered.  It didn't. (Had our former senator and presidential candidate who will go unnamed have been included, it would have been a disaster)  The bottom line, however, is that good leadership over time is usually obvious and good leaders know how to deal with issues like what happened at NC State.

In an excerpt, Erskine describes his time as chief of staff: " proudest moment was putting together a team that had sharp minds and not sharp elbows.  We really focused on trying to move the country forward rather than to take some kind of partisan advantage.  We did it by taking partisanship off the table, establishing trust on both sides of the aisle."

I truly hope that Erskine can create a consensus.  My father-in-law, Earl Hubbard, a banker by trade, used to say that what those folks in Washington really want to is to maintain the status quo....that change is scary and dangerous.  To a certain extent he is probably right.  Getting Republicans and Democrats to actually work together would be a real change and would show true leadership.  I wish him luck.

Perhaps it was our book that convinced Obama to select Bowles.  Wishful thinking, but you never know who is going to see your work.  -S

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