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Russian Roulette

By Melissa-Lea Nov 30, 2013 833 Words
Russian Roulette
In October of 1962 over 80 million American’s lives were at risk. American President, John F. Kennedy, stepped up to the plate and proved that peace through strength is the best strategy in the situation at hand. Kennedy handled the extremely intense situation in 1962 with his transformational leadership skills, along with the powerful and attentive delegation process he used, and furthermore his expertise decision making abilities.

Transformational leadership styles focus on team building, motivation, and collaboration with employees at different levels of an organization to accomplish a change for the better. Transformational leaders set goals and incentives to push their subordinates to higher performance levels, while providing opportunities for personal and professional growth. Kennedy assembled a small group called the Executive Committee of the National Security Council. The council consisted of individuals that Kennedy trusted, and they were amongst his key advisors with opposing views. The motivation was to meet a common goal of removing the Soviet missiles out of Cuba, Kennedy declared, “this government will not tolerate the establishment of a soviets strategic base in Cuba”. Kennedy along with his council all stood in agreement that removing the missiles out of Cuba would improve America’s outlook of being a targeted by the Soviet government’s missiles. Kennedy definitely pushed his group members to higher performance levels by making them his partners during the missile crisis. When one of Kennedy’s colleagues stated that the president was in a pretty bad fix, Kennedy responded “You’re in it with me”. “In accordance with your directive”, “under your instruction”, and “following your request” are responses that Kennedy heard a lot during those 13 days of crisis. Delegation entails granting authority, assigning duties and responsibilities, furthermore it requires accountability. Kennedy’s delegation duties in this emergency were established the instant Bundy delivered the news of missiles in Cuba. Bundy had the responsibility of rounding up JFK’s crew for the duration of the crisis. Following the first initial meeting, Kennedy granted authority to Bobby to conduct the meetings without him. Kennedy’s authoritative reasoning for having Bobby handle this was to ensure open discussion amongst his advisors. When the crisis was leaked out to the press Kennedy stepped up and said “I can’t delegate that job, I’ll have to call the publishers myself.” JFK distinguished when a job should and shouldn’t be delegated. JFK also delegated numerous times for Theodore Sorensen to write speeches not only for Kennedy’s campaign, but also a speech to tell the American people announcing the blockade. Kennedy believed in his team so much, that while the stress of the crisis was at its highest he told his crew “I want a response to the letter in the morning, I’m going to get a good night sleep.”

“I’ll make this decision alone if I must, but it will be infinitely better if the executive department support me all the way, because they participated in the decision, they understand it, and they believe in it.” Kennedy exceeded by far in his decision making abilities and applied many different styles throughout the crisis. Decision making requires considering and deciding on a course of action from among alternatives. Kennedy was attracted to the concept of a blockade, but wanted to base his decision on the opposing side leaning towards an air strike. The decision making process involved a combination of the Vroom Yetton model, and brainstorming. The Vroom Yetton model implies that subordinates are involved in the decision making and problem solving process. Kennedy was also intelligent when he picked a group of team members with opposing ideas, because this was very helpful when it came down to brainstorming in the decision making process. When Kennedy was making his decision on bombing or forming a blockade he wanted to know what the consensus of his team was. After finding out that choosing an air strike would only have a 90% guarantee to take care of all the warheads that could reach America, Kennedy decided to go with the consensus of forming a blockade instead.

Throughout the Cuban missile crisis Kennedy showed superb leadership skills carried him through what seemed to be a game of Russian roulette, with a gamble of a possible nuclear war. Kennedy’s final proceedings to Khrushchev and the missiles in Cuba showed not only Americans, but the Soviets as well that he can overcome and conquer what he set out to do. Although Kennedy didn’t act alone he was the one that made the final decision. JFK did an outstanding job of distinguishing what roles were able to be delegated, and to whom they should be delegated to. Even though Kennedy was in a very intense situation, he controlled the crisis in a way a leader should, and that was with expertise and refinement. Kennedy handled the extremely intense situation in 1962 with his transformational leadership skills, along with the powerful and attentive delegation process he used, and furthermore his expertise decision making abilities.

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