Leadership is as Leadership Does—Leadership Lessons Learned from the Recent US-Government Shutdown
Leadership Dependency Weakens Independence
The most fundamental leadership lesson learned from the shutdown is the ancient reminder that the more we, as individuals, become dependent on leadership, the more it weakens our own personal independence. The United States of America was founded on the core value of personal independence—leadership of self. When leaders of organizations and communities take a top-down approach to solving problems and finding solutions, they undermine the power of the individual to come up with creative and innovative solutions to the challenges at hand. Excellent leadership empowers individuals to equip themselves with the mindset and skill sets to resolve issues at a personal, local level, rather than depend on someone else to solve the problem for them.
Leadership Is Not a Title
People assume that elected officials are leaders by nature. This assumption is misleading and is often a source of frustration when politicians don’t live up to our expectations; behaving more like spoiled children rather than acting like mature servants of the people. As with other assumed leadership roles—executives, teachers, doctors, president of the local sports league—people aren’t necessarily in that role because of their leadership skills. Often they assume positions of authority by default or indifference of the people, not necessarily because they are qualified for the position. We shouldn’t assume people are effective leaders just because of their title. Good leaders should be viewed as such based on how they collaborate with and influence others through a positive and productive process.
Collaboration is no easy task. It’s an acquired and developed skill set of every good leader. The larger the stakes and the more people involved means the more complicated collaboration will be. That’s why great leaders—of both others and self—need to be effective collaborators. Collaboration is not just listening to others’ opinions then making a decision based on your own personal point of view. Collaboration could be the most exhaustive, painful, messy, and frustrating part of leadership, but it is critical to maintain the trust of the people you are leading, as well as serve the greater good of the people.
Leaders Don’t Point Fingers
One of the silliest aspects of an otherwise tragic situation in the government shutdown was the public calling out of others with opposing views. The blame game is nothing more than an immature act of desperation in an attempt to influence public perception of other people’s point of view. Instead of finger pointing, great leaders assess the disagreements, seek understanding, and assume the best in other’s opinions, even if there is an apparent selfish intent. Effective leaders roll up their sleeves and work behind closed doors, face-to-face, to get the issues on the table as a first step to discussing possible solutions. Leaders listen, they don’t stand behind a podium and blame others.
As the dust settles from the latest uprising of political division in the country, let us sober our minds and check our own hearts to consider how we, the people, may glean something worthy from this conflict. There is still great hope in the great American experience, and it still resides within the heart of effective personal and collaborative leadership.