Signs of Our Times

The stuff that happens in Washington D.C. is absolute confirmation that “COMMUNICATION IS THE PROBLEM TO THE ANSWER.” It is so obvious that in the business world whenever decisions need to be made they are made.  They may not be good ones; they may be slow in coming, or even too hastily arrived at, but they are made. It’s the leader’s responsibility to get what needs to be done, done! In fact, all the work we did together over the years was aimed at facilitating communication and problem solving in an authentic way. That genuine dialogue was a stated goal so that the best and most honest opinions for the good of the whole could be brought to the table.  Our purpose was never to impede decision making, but to get the best suggestions on the table and to choose, and run with a consensus if possible, and without it, if necessary, but in a timely manner. On the other hand, businesses are not democracies, and the leader is not an elected politician whose primary purpose is to be a representative of his/her constituents.  So comparing political leadership with business leadership is as foolish as comparing the operation of a government with that of a business.  The political leader has many strings attached to what powers they appear to have, and these may be withdrawn if the constituents’ needs are not being met. The business leader “owns” both the power and the strings. They fear the loss of money and business, but not the voice and vote of their employees. And the point to this brief paper is that the politician does worry too much about the voice and vote of their constituents to the loss of the “greater good,” and the business leader does not understand how important the voices and votes of their employees are to their business success. The former is weakened by knowing they have too little power, and the other by believing they have all the power. Neither is true.

There are important similarities to leading as a politician and leading as a business leader. They both need the support of the people that for the one, voted them into office, and for the other that work for them. But if the politician is to move beyond the constraints of their limiting community to the larger and much more important view of the country they must also mentor their constituents to this “greater good.” This is never easy, but essential if democracy is to work. The alternative is bound to fracture any democratic country into hundreds of isolated and weakened camps. (Think Balkanization?)

The business leader needs their people, in a sense, to vote and support them also, but this is a challenge beyond what most understand, and are therefore incapable of achieving. Getting employees to a committed level of performance beyond that of earning a paycheck is probably every bit as difficult as teaching one’s constituents to understand and support the “greater good.” Neither is an impossible task, but does require courage to communicate genuinely, patiently, and clearly. “Being” is never easy. 

For every politician and every business leader “communication is the problem to the answer.” And what is communicated is experienced by each individual, and what people perceive (not necessarily what is actually said or done) turns out to be one’s own truth. So if a country’s “greater good” are the issues and a business’s “success and growth” are its issues, both type leaders need to be what they say and do. For the politician, this means knowledge of the subjects, ability to negotiate, to understand the other, to explain, to learn, to be willing to give a little in order to get a little, and to enlighten. For the business leader, are they really that different?                                                                                                                    Sy