How will the election impact K Street?


The Hill | May 19, 2016

​The Hill published a bylined article written by Russell Reynolds Associates' Bill O'Leary and Stephanie Tomasso titled, "How will the election impact K Street?" The piece looks at the changes currently happening in Washington and the effect the upcoming presidential election will have on K Street. The article is excerpted below. 

Every four years, Washington experiences an existential crisis of sorts. Trade associations and Washington offices wonder whether they are well positioned for the changing of the guard.  And employees wonder whether the Transition presents a threat or an opportunity to their career advancement.​

And while there are elements of this process that follow a fairly predictable pattern, this political season is anything but predictable and that has implications for K Street.

Despite the turmoil in the presidential race, there are signs that more incremental changes are already taking place in the way Washington defines executive talent.  Today’s most successful organizations and individuals have two important qualities that were not relevant a decade ago.

First and perhaps foremost, today’s senior trade association and government affairs executives are increasingly called on to be more than just the “Advocate in Chief.”  The old model of lobbying, based on rolodexes and relationships, while still important, is no longer sufficient.  Instead, the ability to shape legislation and regulation is increasingly dependent upon building broad grassroots and stakeholder support.  Companies and organizations need leaders that have demonstrated success managing integrated advocacy campaigns.

At the risk of stating the obvious, technology has also changed how business gets done in Washington.  Online petitions seemingly take off overnight, powerful communities of otherwise unaffiliated individuals come together on Facebook and Twitter, and traditional definitions of authority and credibility are, at times, thrown out the window as debates morph before our eyes.

Successful leaders in Washington no longer dismiss “the Twitter.”  Instead, they embrace the power of the social network as an essential tool in their growing and diverse toolbox, especially when it comes to reputation management and stakeholder mobilization.  The most effective leaders in Washington may not know the difference between Snapchat and Instagram (hint: the photos disappear in one but not the other) but they most definitely know that no winning advocacy program is complete without a robust digital presence.

These two traits – the ability to lead a multifaceted advocacy effort and the willingness to embrace technology – are instigating a generational shift in leadership as we speak.  Candidates that were considered mid-career (i.e. their 40s) are increasingly being selected for positions of more seniority once reserved for the “elder statesman.”

While those two trends seem fairly established and unlikely to change, that is not to suggest the coming Transition and the ripple effects on K Street will be predictable.

To read the full article, click here.


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How will the election impact K Street?