Government Dysfunction: A Failure of Political Leadership To Assimilate Into the Business of Government?
Government is not a business in the traditional sense. It is, however, a nonprofit business conglomerate that receives revenue from taxpayers, which it uses to deliver highly diversified services to all citizens who do not directly pay for the varying levels of service they use. This distinction makes government an odd business from the capitalist perspective, but it is nonetheless a business that must be run like a business. Government is a very complicated service provider due to the highly diversified and large profile of services it offers as well as the disconnect between when government collects revenue, when people utilize government services, who utilizes the most government services, and how public officials are hired. This complexity creates a whole host of challenges.
Just as traditional businesses hire leaders to solve problems and help their employees succeed in their roles, public officials are empowered to run government and solve problems. Unfortunately, the complexity of government makes it very difficult for leaders to assume control of government and effectively address problems inside government. In a democracy, elections guarantee a constant turnover of government leaders, especially at the national level. The US, for example, suffers from increasing dysfunction that persistently invites calls for new leadership. New leaders cannot, however, fix Washington, unless they can successfully assimilate themselves into government.
In business, the challenge of assimilating new leadership is significant. For government, it is a lot more complicated and a lot more difficult due to the complexities of government. When a business hires a new boss, management empowers that new hire with authority and sees the individual as authority figure. Subordinates, on the other hand, do not see the “newbie” as an authority figure, even if they recognize his authority. Unless the outsider is a well-known, well-respected figure who already garners the respect of seasoned workers, the new boss is not an authority in their eyes. When someone is new to a business, or industry, the lack of knowledge and direct experience contradicts the authority of someone who is supposed to be a leader. Any need to guide, train, or correct the new guy in charge places the new boss in an awkward position while further undermining his authority.
Businesses hire new leadership to either replace old leadership or address problems that the current leadership cannot solve. This means the new boss is supposed to take charge. The boss may be the boss, but he is there to help others succeed at their jobs. Any premature attempt by the new boss to seize control and implement changes without fully understanding the operations of the business is, however, likely going to lead to problems. When the new boss creates friction by prematurely forcing changes onto subordinates and problems start to occur due to his decisions, a lack of confidence and trust in the superior’s leadership will undermine the authority of the newly minted leader.
In many respects, a business is a machine and a leader is like the operator of that machine, but leaders lead teams of people. Leaders must work as part of their team, not just work the controls and expect the team to respond like a machine. There will be those who are more supportive of new leadership and those who will be indifferent to the new boss. To overcome this, the new guy has to show respect for the existing social order of employees and establish himself as an authority and member of the community by identifying and solving problems. When new to a business environment, subordinates need to be treated as equals and as authorities, because they are. Even if they are dysfunctional workers or they work in a dysfunctional work environment, they are the authorities of that work environment, they are the ones who are doing the work, and they are established member of the work community.
If the new boss, therefore, approaches leadership as a problem solver instead of a “boss,” he can safely learn how the new business environment works, assimilate into the work culture, and build confidence in his leadership, even when he makes mistakes. As the new boss helps subordinates do their jobs better, he will become an authority in their eyes and they will help him succeed as a leader. The same is true in government. Too often, public officials are elected and enter the halls of government with self-proclaimed mandates based on their campaign platforms then immediately start making demands on how government is going to work while ignoring the fact other public officials were also elected with own mandates. This creates friction among other elected officials and seasoned government workers.
The best leaders in the world can be elected to public office, yet their inability to properly assimilate into the cultures of government, without creating friction among the many subcultures and personalities of Washington, prevents them from achieving their goals. Instead of effective leadership solving problems, the American People get political drama and dysfunctional division. This has been particularly apparent since the election of President Donald Trump. Not only has Donald Trump managed to alienate a vast majority of factions in Washington with offensive language and his overly domineering mentality, his lack of authority in the eyes of public servants and his lack of knowledge of how government works has crippled his ability to solve problems. Instead, he has become a source of problems. Clearly, he is just a bold example, but he is an example that highlights the failure of government leaders to properly assimilate into government and lead on issues.
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