The Detroit News
by L. Todd Thomas
October 31, 2010
When Rick Snyder officially takes office on Jan. 1, 2011, he will inherit a $1.42 billion budget deficit, an economy that has lost more than 600,000 jobs in the last eight years, a Michigan Business Tax mess, and an electorate of angry, pessimistic and exhausted citizens. But it is what he will not inherit that may be his saving grace. Simply on term limits alone, there will be 81 new House members and 38 new Senate members. Incumbent losses have added to this number, which means Snyder will come into a state government that still will be trying to figure out where the restrooms and copy machines are at the same time they are dealing with some of the most serious issues ever to face Michigan.
Given that he has only until March 6 to submit a state budget, Snyder will need to start transitioning from one tough nerd to one strong team builder from the very beginning. Snyder's leadership skills will be much more important than his finance or law background during the transition.
Specifically, Snyder will need to focus on four key areas: Taking action quickly: There will be a period of time where Snyder's biggest asset is that he isn't Gov. Jennifer Granholm. He will have an opportunity, albeit a brief one, to use the momentum of his win to establish the direction of his administration and begin building his team. There are more than 130 positions that he can appoint directly to lead his departments and staff positions. He can start making those decisions immediately while being as transparent to the people as possible. The day he takes office, Snyder should not only be ready to get started, the public should be confident that he has his team in place.
Articulating a vision of hope: The "Reinvent Michigan" 10-point plan helped Snyder get elected. Now Snyder should take this plan from a campaign pitch to a vision of the future the public can embrace. To break the political gridlock and gain the public's support, he has to be able to inspire. This means he has to have a vision and be willing to go all out. The vision of the new governor shouldn't be about reconciliation or compromise, although both of these will have to happen for any plan to work. Rather, the message has to be about commitment and a sincere belief that this goal can be attained.
Building coalitions and momentum: Snyder needs to immediately become familiar with his new legislature, their needs and their positions. Some may refuse to collaborate, but if the new governor avoids being distracted by partisan politics and focuses instead on enlisting the efforts of representatives and senators on all sides of the aisle, he stands a chance of moving his plan from the abstract to reality.
If Snyder can build a significant coalition from the beginning, and begin making things happen quickly, it will be difficult to stay embroiled in partisan bickering.
Supporting the private sector: Michigan politics have become stagnant in large part because the economic generators have been stymied by an entitlement mentality. As an executive and venture capitalist, Snyder will need to loosen the reins on entrepreneurship, not just through changes to the Michigan Business Tax, but through his message of free enterprise and job creation.
Snyder has an opportunity to exhibit leadership to both politicians of Lansing and business leaders of Michigan through his policies and initiatives. This means creating avenues to expand business in Michigan while at the same time holding the business community accountable for its impact on the state economy.
When Rick Snyder was a Gateway executive and later CEO, he became known for his ability to make things happen and make tough decisions.
He proved that he could not only do what needed to be done, but that he could build a team that would execute the hard decisions and maintain the change needed to make a difference. To be successful as governor, Snyder will have to focus on leading change again and building the infrastructure and momentum to move from talk to action.
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