Leadership Mistakes

Where Are the Leaders?

Fred Tutwiler asked:

There is a disastrous state of leadership in our national government. Our political system has devolved to a state of territorial agenda, short-sighted positioning and religious manipulation. Kind of like what one would expect in a new government such as Iraq. But not here!

Let’s see here: a disastrous military engagement, global terrorism, global warming, a chaotic immigration system, corruption, out-of-control health care costs, irresponsible deficits, and an energy policy that ensures our addiction to foreign oil for decades.

In the midst of these urgent challenges, our elected leaders selfishly busy themselves with partisan politics and maneuvering to ensure control of one party over the other, all the while sabotaging each other’s efforts to deal intelligently with these serious issues. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. This is about charlatans of all persuasions.

The biggest impediment to leadership in our government is that America doesn’t elect “leaders”. We elect “managers”. We put people in power who are well-suited for popular elections, but don’t have a clue what it means to “lead”. They know what it means to “get promoted” and “keep their jobs”. Ugh!

Think about it. A manager is primarily responsible to his “boss”, and, ideally to the organization. He’s “interested in” the customer’s needs, but mainly because responding to those needs in a cost-effective way promotes the success of the company. And make no mistake about it, to a manager the life and health of the organization is everything. Yes, some managers do grow disillusioned with the organization, and leave it. But those who stay have a vested interest in the organization, MUCH more so than they have to the customers or any particular “customer service” policy.

Isn’t that what we’re seeing in Washington? Our elected Representatives tow the “party” line, they do what their “bosses” tell them to do, or else they won’t get that bonus (aka “earmark”) or promotion (committee assignments!). If they want to keep their jobs, they do what the organization (aka, “their party”) wants them to do. They help each other out and they always try to stay in front of the competition. Like the manager, our elected officials are first and foremost committed to keeping their jobs and getting promoted. And I don’t care what bill of goods someone may be trying to sell, the point of view from the “keep my job” reality is COMPLETELY different than the point of view from the “do what’s best for the customers” reality.

One of the fundamental elements of human nature is that we will always focus our attention, both consciously and subconsciously, on whatever we are measuring. That which we measure, therefore, determines what actions we will take and the quality of those actions. If achieving the measured result is important enough to us, or if we can rationalize it enough, we are extremely tolerant of the unintended consequences of those actions, even if we would NEVER choose to produce those results.

Map all of this on to the black comedy unfolding in our nation’s capital and it appears that we have elected an army of well-meaning people who has a value system based on self-promotion, survival and keeping the boss happy.

Well, that value system may be fine if you’re hiring a summer manager for your ice cream store at the beach, or even if you want a loyal partisan to manage your car plant in Iowa. But it totally sucks for hiring someone who is going to have to deal with complicated political, economic and environmental challenges that plunge entire regions of the world into death and chaos.

We need to stop putting managers in positions that demand leaders. We need people of courage and vision, and we need to reward them for being willing to upset the status quo, rather than punishing them as soon as they say or do something that ticks off our little corner of the neighborhood.

Leadership is about finding a way to cause excellence and greatness. Nobody said that is an easy task. So what? Stop making excuses! I don’t give a flying hoot if you, Mr. Congressman, or Mr. Senator or Mr. PRESIDENT, have to sacrifice everything you’ve got. I don’t care how hard it is, or how much ridicule and abuse you have to endure. I don’t care if you are frowned upon by your “bosses” or if you miss out on the juicy bonuses. You asked for the opportunity to lead, so LEAD!

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