Seth Godin’s take on Congress & Leadership

Posted Thursday, January 19th, 2012. Filed Under My Daily Dose

Learning leadership from Congress

The most frustrating thing for me in the SOPA/PIPA debate now winding down is how unnecessary the whole thing should have been. It occurred to me that we learned a lot about what sort of behaviors make for great leaders and careers. The short version: do the opposite.

When did we lose Congress? Not just in terms of losing our respect for just about everyone there (one of the least respected careers in the USA) but in the sense that they no longer even pretend to represent our interests or act as we would act if given the chance?

I’m not so much angry as saddened that it has come to this.

When planning your career, avoid these pitfalls, behaviors evidenced by many elected officials:

In all things, look for money first. Listen to people with money, respond to people with money, justify your actions around money. Worth noting that 47% of those in Congress (House and Senate) are millionaires–an even greater percentage than those that are lawyers.
Embrace the fact that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Aspire to run systems you don’t understand.
Compromise over the important issues, but dig in and fight forever over trivia.
Along those lines: focus obsessively on the short run. Even though you are virtually assured of re-election, define the long term as “before the next election.”
Take months off from your day job (with pay) to actively campaign for a better job.
Blame the system, the other side and your predecessors for the fact that you are not taking brave, independent action.
Avoid developing independent thought and analysis. Focus on parroting the work of lobbyists and the party line.
When given the choice between being on television or doing hard work, pick television.
When a difficult problem shows up, duck.
Try mightily to outlast passionate resistance by quietly ignoring it and waiting for it to go away.
I’m thrilled that reality has intruded and SOPA is derailed (for now). You probably know more about how the internet works than your senator does. Has he or she called you or asked your insight?

I’m disheartened that even when a linchpin shows up in Washington, she is quickly beaten into submission. Where are the lions, the Mr. Smith’s and the statesmen who would rather do the people’s business than business as usual? Sure, Congress has a marketing problem–largely because they have a problem with the decisions they make and the way that they make them.

At least they’ve left us a useful career guide about what not to do in the real world.

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