President-elect Barack Obama was on 60 Minutes last night with his first in person interview since being elected. Right off the bat, you could tell that there were some questions he just wasn't going to answer, and it was proper for him not to answer those questions. I'll tell you why.

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Mr. Obama was asked some general opinion questions on some of the challenges he's going to face when he takes office, some of the problems which are occurring now. He was asked what he would do about those problems, and also was asked if he would change anything that was currently in place once he took office.

There would have been two problems if he had answered the more direct questions. One, he's not in charge yet, no matter how much some people wish he was. There is still a president in office who's making policy, and even though, while on the campaign trail, his job performance kept coming into question, sometimes with ridicule, he is still the man in charge, and to say what you're going to do once he's not there is disrespectful.

Two, if he had answered certain questions more specifically, what could he do if the current president, upon hearing this, and knowing that he'd had a vested interest in some of the policies that came about during his presidency, passed an executive order that Mr. Obama couldn't overturn once he came into the office? If you don't think it could happen, it happens every time a president is about to leave office, usually within the last couple of days. Many different types of things are passed at the last minute under executive order, pardons given, and those things become absolute at times, and didn't need anyone signing off on them.

It's always awkward having the person in the job working with, or having to deal with, the person getting ready to take the job. As a consultant who often does interim assignments, I've been in both positions, and, for me, it's always easier giving up the job to someone than taking the job from someone.

I've been in on interviews where the candidates have to talk themselves up, sometimes at the expense of your being there, because they want the job and know you're only keeping the seat warm. But once that part is over, because they want to get up to speed as quickly as possible, they're usually a lot more inviting and social. Luckily, they see the bonds I've established with the employees they're about to inherit, and don't want to shake the apple tree all that much before establishing their own roots.

Sometimes leaders have to take a step back because even leaders aren't always the ones in charge at the moment. Learning how and when to do it is a skill that takes some people a long time to hone. But when you can do it well, you're more comfortable with yourself, and make others comfortable as well.

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