The New York Times recently ran a story that gained a lot of attention, reporting that Chief of Staff John Kelly had drawn anger from President Donald Trump for advising him to avoid injecting politics into governing.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody who knows the former Marine Corps general, Kelly respectfully stood his ground.
Kelly has been an incredible asset to the White House since becoming Chief of Staff at the end of July. In fact, his selection as Chief of Staff to replace Reince Priebus, is one of the most promising developments for the country. Here’s why Kelly’s suggestion gives me great hope — bringing discipline and focus to the staff surrounding the president and allowing the president to stay focused on the critical tasks he hopes to achieve.
Surrounding himself with the right people
For a leader to thrive, it’s critical to be surrounded by the right people — those who can offer informed analysis, strategy and solutions; and those who can manage teams in ways that encourage high performance.
Among President Trump’s best decisions has been surrounding himself with Kelly, Secretary of Defense and former Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, and National Security Advisor and Army Gen. H.R. McMaster. The three men share fierce intellects, organizational mastery, managerial and political savvy, a commitment to discipline, and a gift for staying focused on the critical elements needed to succeed in a mission, coupled with an ability to listen broadly to differing opinions, filter out the noise, and synthesize solutions.
For a chief executive, one of the keys to success is building a team around you that can filter out the noise and allow you to stay focused on the mission-critical tasks that demand your attention.
Staying focused is key
President Trump has acknowledged that running the country is far more difficult than he imagined before taking office. Part of that challenge is the cacophony of competing interests — both domestically and on the world stage — that must be continually balanced.
The president faces an immense responsibility. Distraction is an unaffordable luxury.
Kelly has made an immediate and profound mark on the White House by imposing discipline on the White House staff and implementing communication protocols designed to organize the information being presented to the president so that it’s more actionable, more informative, and more mission-oriented.
All meetings and communications with the president now flow through Kelly. He demands that those who wish to speak to the president come prepared with a defined agenda and focused talking points. The president’s time is precious and limited. Kelly understands this.
Kelly also has no patience for infighting and poor message discipline. He respects dissenting voices and insists on hearing differing opinions and presenting those to the president, too — but he understands that once the president has made a decision, it’s the staff’s job to execute, not to leak their grievances to a press greedy for internal drama.
Drama is often a consequence of poor protocol. By bringing protocol and discipline to the White House staff, Kelly is reducing internal drama so the administration can stay focused on accomplishing goals for the American people.
Much to be accomplished
While I don’t agree with every element of Trump’s agenda, I think many of his economic policies will make the country much stronger and benefit everyone.
I emphatically agree that Obamacare must be repealed and replaced. The latest Senate bill, which would block grant funding to the states and allow them to devise their own health care solutions, would be a brilliant federalist solution to the question of how to deliver care. Rather than try to impose a single solution from Washington, D.C., states could experiment with a variety of approaches. I have no doubt that the states that embrace private-market approaches will see the most success — but the great advantage of federalism is that it would allow 50 different experiments to play out simultaneously. As the best approaches become clear, states could adjust.
I emphatically agree that taxes must be reduced. High taxes siphon away trillions of dollars each year, directing that money to a wasteful bureaucracy when it could be put to better use — giving companies more capital to spur expansion; giving investors more money to pump into innovative new business ventures that spur job creation; and putting money back into the pockets of taxpayers.
And I emphatically agree that our nation’s infrastructure is due for massive improvement. This area, in particular, is one where the President and his team should be able to build coalitions with Democrats to improve highways, bridges and other critical infrastructure through a mix of public and private initiatives.
There’s much good work to be done. I’m thrilled that President Trump has John Kelly at his side, helping line up the pieces that will help the president succeed.