Is President Synonymous With Leader?        May 23, 2013

By

Leonard Zwelling

            Whether
elected or appointed, presidents of things are leaders, at least they are
supposed to be. Leaders, by contrast, are often not office holders of any kind
but through their words, deeds and principles establish standards for large
groups of people that hopefully better life for the group and humanity in
general. In other words, all presidents should be leaders, but all leaders do
not have to be presidents, making the answer to the title question “sometimes”.

            President
Obama is having a tough leadership stretch right now. Benghazi hangs over him,
not because he himself did anything terribly wrong, but because he has created
an environment within his administration of ABB—anything but blame. Neither the
CIA nor State Department really has taken responsibility for what was another
terror-related screw-up (after all, wasn’t that what 9/11/01 was on a massive
scale?) in a place that was very dangerous, probably a CIA outpost and terribly
under-protected on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Why not just say that
and pledge to improve things?

            Then
there is the use of the IRS to slow the granting of 501(c)4 tax status to
conservative organizations. They have fired a few folks, but who gave the order
to do this or passively tolerated it is still unknown again calling into
question the atmosphere permeating the Obama executive branch. The best answer
given to the House Committee looking into this has been, “I don’t know”. Isn’t
that what Bill Cosby’s son said to him when asked by his father why he had a
reverse Mohawk haircut?

            The
AP phone records scandal may be the worst of all because it is very easy to
understand getting access to people’s private phone records in secret. It’s
shades of the post-WW II Soviet Union and Americans don’t like that at all. The
Department of Justice was clearly way out of control and Attorney General Eric
Holder’s combative testimony before Congress is simply unacceptable. He must be
asked to tender his resignation for what he knew or didn’t know, but surely for
what he said and how he said it in public.

            Individually,
these crises would be manageable and not at all unexpected in a second
Presidential term. Collectively, they may signify a basic underlying lack of discipline
or integrity or worse, a real indifference to matters of great importance to
Americans, and certainly to Republicans in Congress.  The White House is handling all of this badly. It needs to
come clean, assign blame with fairness but without regard to the President’s
relationships with those who did wrong if the Obama White House wants to get
beyond this trifecta of scandals.

            Now,
what about the President of MD Anderson? He’s got his own collection of baggage
that, like that of his counterpart in Washington, could cripple his ability to
fulfill his ambitious agenda.

            He
went on TV to push his stock but denies this. Yet my information is that MD
Anderson requested this time on CNBC. Why would the President of MD Anderson go
on a show about investing and not expect to be asked about stock tips and then,
when as expected, he was asked, push his own company’s stock at a time when he
could have known that the results from the trial of the company’s only viable
product was a bust, at least according to the Cancer Letter? I will predict
open record requests from the press for the emails to and from Dr. DePinho and
Aveo for the period just before his CNBC appearance will be coming.

            Why
was the President even allowed to be in a position where his motivations could
be questioned? Had he and his wife liquidated their drug company-related equity
prior to starting in the UT System and eliminated all conflicts-of-interest as
our policies demand, this would all be moot. By the way, don’t hire your wife
and co-founder of the company because suspicion will fall upon her as well.

            Finally,
why is the President of MD Anderson on the one hand giving great messages about
the “fulfilling year” he’s had while ending the long-standing tradition of
sharing some of the profits from the clinical endeavors with the faculty who
generated the funds? Of course, supposedly we did not make any money from
operations. Well, who’s fault is that? The faculty? I think not! The
combination of a lack of strategic vision as to what our clinical goals should
be and the absence of modern infrastructure have caused the faculty to have to
see patients with one hand tied behind its collective back. Who owns that?

            And
when will we get a full accounting of the institution’s real spending? IACS, the
clinical network, the recruitment packages must total millions. Where did that
money come from and where did it go?

            In
both President Obama and President DePinho we have well-educated, well-spoken Presidents
put in office by long-standing processes. Both were in part products of that
upper middle class boys’ school in Cambridge, MA. One was elected, the other
was selected. President Obama’s constituency is clear. It is the American
people and right now, he’s not doing all that well simply because right now,
he’s acting like a president but not like a leader. Dr. DePinho’s constituency
is less clear. It should be all the faculty and staff of MD Anderson plus our
patients, donors, supporters and the Board of Regents. Thus far, only the Board
of Regents seems thrilled with his performance. While it is true that only
their opinion matters, it is hard to see how Dr. DePinho succeeds in his goal
of curing cancer without the rest of that constituency backing him up. Right
now, I don’t think he has earned that support yet.

            Being
President means getting the job. Being a leader takes skill, hard work,
intelligence and sensitivity to the people and to the zeitgeist around you. So
far, both of these guys are having bad years. Let’s see who improves first and
fastest.

            Or
not……

Leonard Zwelling