The Power of Decisions

November 3, 2008
Mike Hennessy

As a physician, you are a decision maker. Should you open your own practice or join a group? Which, if any, insurance plans will you accept? What treatments will you recommend to your patients?

As a physician, you are a decision maker. You had to decide early in your academic career to take what you knew would be a long and difficult road: pre-med classes loaded with science and math courses, at least 6 years of medical school and 2 years of residency, and then possibly more schooling if you chose to specialize. At that point, the decisions were only beginning. Should you open your own practice or join a group? Which, if any, insurance plans will you accept? What treatments will you recommend to your patients?

With the election upon us, it’s useful to examine which of the candidates for President has the most experience making big decisions. While our founding fathers had great foresight in splitting power among all three branches of government, the President has the ability to shape the decisions that are made in all three branches, through the appointments he makes, the legislation he supports, and the initiatives he decides to focus on.

On Tuesday, the next President will be elected. Voters will make their decisions on many factors. But as an individual voter, your decision will most likely come down to which of the candidates is more closely aligned with your values and beliefs. For this reason, I think Tuesday’s election is going to be much closer than recent polls have shown.

As likable a candidate as Senator Obama may seem, I think when many Americans enter the booth, they’ll think long and hard about the leadership and decision-making abilities of both candidates. In Senator McCain, they will see a man who has led troops into battle, who has served his country dutifully for many years, and who has taken strong stands even when they were not in lockstep with those in his party. As for Governor Palin, whatever you think about her qualifications and experience, it’s undeniable that she has held positions in which the buck stopped at her desk.

In Senator Obama, I think they might see a candidate who has a brief leadership history in which he has seemed to take very few controversial positions—one who has introduced next to nothing in terms of meaningful legislation. Senator Obama has seemed throughout his campaign like someone who very much wants to be liked. His choice as running mate, Senator Biden, has had a distinguished legislative career, but he has also never been the primary decision maker in his party.

A famous passage from Shakespeare’s Henry IV goes, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Great politicians and other leaders throughout history share the trait of being decisive. Sometimes that means making decisions that are very divisive and unpopular. If Senator Obama wins the election, he’ll have to very quickly demonstrate an ability to make strong decisions—an attribute that has been noticeably missing to this point in his political career.

Mike Hennessy is Chairman and CEO of MJH & Associates. Click here for more Hennessy's Highlights.