Leadership and your "First 100 Days"

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Leadership is about bringing change. Change requires inspiration to receive buy-in and willingness to take risks. A leader must ease a risk averse team (or nation) into change via small steps rather than one big jump. As part of an election campaign a candidate can make big vague promises but people need something tangible they can understand. A candidate should distill the big vision (the BHAG = Big Hairy Audacious Plan) into a prototype, what he will accomplish in the “First 100 Days”. Show the people a tangible and doable first step they can understand and you will have a greater chance at garnering their buy-in and support.


Leadership is about change - developing more effective processes, better processes
Management is about optimization - ensuring processes are efficient in the status quo

Managers can use transactional leadership while leaders need to use transformational leadership and need to be effective at change management. The difficulty with change management is that people hate change! People have a negative bias, risk aversion and loss aversion which must be overcome. Change is especially difficult in an organization plagued with learned helplessness. A leader must overcome the momentum against change.

In the Croatian presidential election
Milan Kujundzic is a challenger, he needs to be a leader seeking a new and better order
Ivo Josipovic is an incumbent, he is a manager seeking to optimize the present order


A leader needs to capture the imagination of the people and inspire them to action. Leaders deal in symbols and emotion - big exciting visions - not in facts and analytics.

The leader must show that the risks of going into the unknown are a lower cost than staying in the status quo. A leader must prove that we in fact can't afford not to change - that the status quo is too costly.

In their book Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry Porras introduce us to their concept of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). The BHAG sets a clear destination and spurs the imagination. (wikipedia)

Your BHAG (emotional connection)
  • Ambitious (but attainable)
  • Memorable
  • Simple
  • Finite
  • Far out (5 to 10 years)

Your BHAG is big and inspiring, but your messaging must not be ambiguous. Your communications strategy must be simple to understand, focus on limited topics. You must pick your battles.

The ultimate BHAG! = JFK "We chose to go to the moon!"

How JFK sold the idea to Congress in 1961

How JFK sold the idea to the public in 1962

People are very risk averse to large changes, but they are more willing to take small steps to test the waters of an idea. If the first small step is successful then we take another step. Running a test-market of a prototype is a wise first step. If the test market is successful then the leader and the idea gains credibility and buy-in.


The common sense of an election campaign is not to go into details about your program. The election ends up being a lot of talk about nothing, it turns into a mudslinging personality contest and ego show. I personally would want to talk about something to differentiate myself from the other contenders.

The "First 100 Days" plan could be the topic to talk about. Your plan for the “First 100 Days” can be seen as a test-market for your BHAG. You will test the waters, build your credibility and allay people’s fears. While most politicians are hesitant to get into the details of their program (people will start debating and arguing over minutiae, rather than look at the big picture), a "First 100 Days" plan can be an action plan that shows what you stand for, shows that you are committed to taking solid steps in the right direction.


If your BHAG is to transform the culture of the government, into an enlightened government, one that respects national interests, the interests of the people, limited government, individual rights, rule of law, and respect for property rights - in Croatia that could be almost as ambitious as going to the moon! It will be difficult to prove you can do that.

A viable first step to show the voters that you are committed to what you say is to have a showpiece program for your "First 100 Days"

Unlike the secretive selection of advisers that we have seen to present, with nepotism and favouritism coupled with questions about whose interests the advisors represent we Conservatives need to push for an open and accountable selection process for presidential advisers. I propose the following.

First 100 Days - A Transparent Presidential Advisor Selection Process

  1. Develop a list of advisory positions
  2. Develop a list of selection criteria on which advisers will be chosen
  3. Put together an adviser selection committee with maybe 7 members
  4. Develop a deadline for nominations and make a public tender for nominations
  5. Receive nominations and make public the long list of applicants
  6. Go through a first vetting process and create a short list of nominees
  7. Selection committee selects the advisers and presents list to president
  8. President has final approval / veto power on advisers

The process by which the president selects his/her advisers will show the nation, the citizens, the voters, the true character of the leader and it will set a precedent for future change initiatives.

This "First 100 Days" initiative will show that you are wiling to do what no one else has dine in Croatia, The process might be a bit long and difficult but it will be a step in the right direction. Can we afford not to take a large step away from the status quo?

How to build a roadmap

So, do you have some cojones in your BHAG?

Updated 14th-November-2014 at 06:31 PM by Željko Zidarić

Željko Zidarić