As Eric Holcomb prepares to embark on his second term as Indiana’s governor, he should heed a passage from Jim Collins’ best-selling 2001 book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don’t.”
“Good is the enemy of great,” Collins writes. “And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. ... We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government.”
Holcomb has been a good governor, keeping the state in a sound fiscal position, creating a business-friendly climate and engaging Hoosiers with his affable nature.
While his leadership has been stable, it has not been inspired. In crisis, he has been cautious, not bold.
When the social justice movement rocked Indiana after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis, Holcomb acted conservatively, creating a state equity and inclusion officer and requiring state police to wear body cameras.
He should have done more, including convening meetings with Black Hoosier leaders to expose the depth of social injustice in Indiana as a means of pushing quickly toward reform.
When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Indiana, Holcomb mandated mask wearing, but failed to impose penalties, and he has been slow to order additional restrictions in recent weeks as the virus has surged.
Good but not great — that’s Holcomb’s legacy after four years in office.
Early this month, Hoosiers essentially gave him a mandate to go for greatness during the next four years, electing him by a whopping 24 percentage points over Democratic challenger Woody Myers.
But about 43% of voters cast their ballots against him.
Donald Rainwater, the Libertarian candidate, garnered 11% of the vote, indicating disenchantment with Holcomb among some conservatives. Likewise, Myers’ 32% share of the vote signifies that many moderate and left-leaning Hoosiers aren’t happy with the governor, either.
Holcomb’s path to greatness must pass through these constituents who want to see him achieve real, lasting change when it comes to overcoming racism, elevating public education, providing equality of opportunities and services, including internet access, and more.
Yes, politicians make enemies when they catalyze change. But Holcomb can’t seek a third term in 2024 and won’t be saddled with the political necessity of caution. With Republican super-majorities in both houses of the Legislature, Holcomb could afford to push the envelope of conservatism, picking up Democratic support where GOP fortitude wanes.
Now is the time to strike. Indiana needs Holcomb to lead with keen foresight and unshakable courage, not timidity and caution.
He needs to break the chains of good in the pursuit of greatness.