(Originally broadcast on Oct. 16, 2009, on The Frank Show, here.)
It’s said that great leaders are born, not made. It’s also said that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. I don’t believe either of these. And I think we’ve seen some evidence of that this week with what happened in Parliament.
Now, believe it or not, the way politicians act here, what they say, what they do, is not all that different from other countries. In the US, members of one party will go on TV and repeat, over and over, the same words, the same phrases, the same ideas – as if robots programmed with no other thoughts than what they’ve been directed to say.
We’ve had one party shut down the government by refusing to pass spending legislation. We’ve had parties refuse to stay in session, instead going on vacation, during the midst of a crisis. Like many of us, they get caught up in the game of their own making and lose sight of what they were hired to do.
But is this myopic pettiness really only the domain of politicians? Are they really all that different from what we too often see in the business world? There are too few statesmen, leaders, everywhere.
Too many times, in politics and in business, we have people content with playing a role. They are usually called managers. They do not lead. They manage. But somehow, they spend their time managing themselves more than others. They attend to what they believe is important at the moment. Too often, it’s what is important to themselves, not to the people they are supposed to be managing. They are so busy doing things – they get nothing done. There is no follow up. There is no accountability. Most often, this is because, there is no strategy. I’ve heard that complaint several times in the past few weeks from business people here.
I am not a fan of books on management. Except the Peter Principle – well named and well conceived. These books seem, like many managers, to be more about the author than the topic. Because, the best managers I’ve ever had were simple in their approach. They managed by common sense. They knew that with a clear strategy comes consistency, with courage comes timely and reasoned decisions, with commitment comes results, and with treating people with respect comes strength, not weakness.
Leaders can, in fact, be taught – but by example, not a book. So as we watch these politicians manage, themselves more than the country, we might learn a lesson for the office. And we might ask ourselves whether we are truly acting any differently. We don’t like seeing it in politics, why should we set the same example in the workplace?