Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Overplaying your Hand

Although I have watched, I have quite intentionally avoided opining on the festivities in Wisconsin occurring over the past few weeks.  Basically I have been operating under the following two principles...
1) I know folks who feel passionately about both sides of this issue, whose passions, lives, jobs, healthcare, pensions and political futures are wrapped up in this, and I care about all of them.
2) I am no longer a resident of the great state of Wisconsin, I have relinquished my right to vote there and be a part of the government there.  And as a firm believer in the rights of individual states to discern their destiny without undo outside influence (which would include the influence of money and people, I don't think I need to go into more on that, but neither side is very innocent here), it isn't my place to say what should or shouldn't be done in Wisconsin.

However, today I read an insightful column that I believe gives a bit of context in which I might opine on simply some of the concepts going on there and frankly, throughout our nation currently.  The concept is..."overplaying your hand."

I am by no means a poker player, I leave that to my brother and my brother-in-law, but I do know a couple things about poker and even moreso about leadership.  When you have a winning hand, when you have the opportunity to achieve your goals, you have a decision to make.  Do you go for the moon shot, the big deal, the huge payday...or do you take the win, achieve what you had hoped for and move forward to build on that success.

My contention is that Scott Walker has overplayed his hand.  In his desire to become the new darling of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, whatever, in his goal (which has become more apparent day after day) to get himself moved up from Wisconsin to the big time of Washington he has overplayed the moment.  He could have accepted the concessions of the union, taken the pay cuts, the pension cuts and moved on to unite a coalition of smaller government, fiscally conservative folks (of which he would find many in Wisconsin and throughout the nation). He could have shown magnanimosity in victory and done his most important job, serve the entire people of Wisconsin, even those who disagreed with him.

But instead he has decided to overplay his hand and become a union buster.  A noble profession for those of his political thinking, a role that will win him a great deal of friends.  But how many of those friends will be in Wisconsin?  In so doing he has pitted neighbors against neighbors and made a BIG mistake.  Because in the end, most of us like our kid's teacher.  We may think teacher unions are big bad machines, but we like our kid's teacher.  More to the point, most teacher's live down the street from us, their spouses work in the same towns, their kids go to the same sunday school.

There is a line in leadership.  How far can you go without overplaying your hand.  It is a temptation the comes regardless of political ideology (again, I have no partisan axe to grind here, just making commentary) and you can find examples on both sides of the aisle who have done so.

So how do you keep from overplaying?  I believe you have to either have a fabulous internal compass, a guiding principal and light, a meter that guides you.  Or you have to have fabulous subordinates.  Those who you can fully trust, who advise and coach you in your successes, but also call you back when you overstretch.  Walker apparently is missing those voices.  He has 4 years of governorship to accomplish his goals, why do it all at once?  Well, maybe his goals aren't to govern, but to move on up.

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