Unless you have been in hibernation, you have likely been tuned into the government shutdown showdown happening in Washington over our debt crisis. I won’t address the politics of this situation, but rather the leadership lessons.

This shutdown despite the reasons purported for its existence is something that has crippled many and nearly crippled others. It has crippled people- if not with the mere fear of the repercussions of our congressmen and women’s decision-making then most certainly by having one’s livelihood and means of supporting themselves temporarily stripped with furloughs.

Through it all, the handsomely compensated leaders in government wooed us with jargon like “we’re in this together or we understand how difficult this is.” Wooed may not be the right word maybe angered is better. Nevertheless, the reality couldn’t be any further from the truth for those affected by furloughs and the like. Still these leaders march on valiantly in ignorance making no progress until nearly the 11thhour.

When we speak about leadership it is important to note that the concept of leadership begs that we lead by example. It isn’t a moniker of entitlement whereby you get to hand down a different set of rules and values to those who follow you while you do the exact opposite.

In addition, you aren’t likely to engage people as every leader hopes to- when your sympathy is worn on your sleeve and you don’t have a clue or truly care about your employee’s realities. When you are paid a healthy salary along with perks and your employees are hardly compensated well for their efforts-face it- “we aren’t in this together.” There are very different vantage points at play.

Many of my colleagues and even I have spoken in the past about engagement and leading people from a place of compassion. It is not fluff or some warm and fuzzy HR concept.  It’s a wake-up call and a call to action urging you to get your head out of the clouds and back on earth where humans (your employees) need you to recognize that their realities and your own are not one in the same.

That isn’t to say you should start throwing money and gas cards from your office chalet, but it is to say that these are difficult times in business and society and your success as a leader is heavily dependent on being able to mobilize and inspire people to work towards your mission, goals, and vision.

To get them there, you first have to see each of them as individuals and regard them highly as a fellow human being. Every decision or indecision you make affects your employees. The effects of your decisions or choices will not always be a crowd-pleaser. However, you do need to have the foresight and ability to see the different realities from where your employees sit-to gain and sustain credibility and respect with your staff.  If you can lead in a way that makes the partnership meaningful for you and the employee, you will be on your way to a laying a crucial foundation for a great leadership and an engaged workforce.


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