Congress May Not Deserve To Be Hired Again...But You Do!
It is not news that the public’s approval of the job Congress is doing is dismally low. Up slightly from its near single digit low-point the latest Gallup poll has it at a whopping 17 percent. Despite the pathetic performance review, at least 80 percent of those currently serving will be re-elected this November, based on historic averages.
Why do we keep re-electing people we don’t believe are doing a good job?
Like any employee who is slacking on the job and escapes the pink slip to return another day to collect a paycheck, we can’t blame the workforce for showing-up with a lackluster work ethic for which we keep paying them. (This is not to say that many Members are not spending the bulk of their time and effort focused on their job. It is however, a statement on the lack of focus on producing results for the American people.) Others point to a system where money, influence and the power to legislate (or not) often leave the average voter totally unempowered during election season, after all we are not making all those negative ads we are just the ones using them as short hand for civic engagement. Who isn’t impacted by the mudslinging during election season? For most, it is enough to turn them off to even paying attention, let alone engaging in the process.
So if we have people working for us who are not doing what we want and we continue to “hire” them, is it any wonder they keep doing more of the same? And yes, I did say people working for us, because in a democracy that is exactly the power balance envision by the Founders. The people are sovereign and those in office serve them—although it seems as if far too many of us have forgotten that simple fact and are allowing poor performers to rule our world.
So the answer to getting the results we want in our country doesn’t rest with those in Congress, it sits firmly in the hands of those who wish to see things change—and who choose to do something about it. Congress has become an institution defined by its glacial pace of change and resistance to synergistic solutions that integrate the best of what the majority desires; if we want to see chronic societal challenges address than the only way it will come is from forces outside the atrophied power structure willing to develop something new.
Which leads us to the power of the individual and their right and responsibility to participate in the creative process of addressing the things that are most important to them. Whenever a person decides to try something new, he begins to change his world. When that person decides to exercise his leadership in service to the community he begins to change the world. By doing both, not only does the possibilities for greater personal happiness expand there is the satisfaction of making a lasting and sustained contribution to the community.
How does one exercise leadership in the lives? Here are seven areas where everyone can start leading today:
· Self: Be a leader unto yourself, own and recognize your power to change your life and the world.
· Intimates: Who are the three to five people that mean the most to you? Are you open, honest and compassionate with them? Do you support them in becoming their best and leading exceptional lives? Do they support you?
· Close Connections: Who are the people that make-up the fabric of your life? Are you setting an example of what you want to see in the world? Do you talk about what you want to see or are you living it? Are you inspiring others to be better or do you drag people down with your pessimism and fear?
· Common Community: Through your interactions with extended family, neighbors and friends there are numerous opportunities to share your talents, skills and passions while supporting their growth and ability to lead.
· Interest Community: Are you a leader in the groups in which you work and volunteer? Are you giving your best and working toward greater fulfillment and enjoyment or are you just “getting by”?
· Geographic Community: Where do you live? Why? What you are doing to be an engaged, active contributing member of your community?
· World Community: What do you see in the world that you wish were different? What are you doing right here, right now to change it right where you are?
For too long we have looked at leadership at the purview of those in the marbled buildings of town halls, state houses, and the Capitol. The result of this external focus is painfully clear, we not only dislike the job they are doing, we continue to suffer from the lack of progress toward the goals we hold dear: a robust economy, vibrant health-care system, functional education process, in sum, communities that are healthy. If we want to create this for ourselves, we must create it by being leaders that reveal our talents and strengths and inspire others to do the same.
The best part is that we don’t have to wait for an election, raise money or give speeches—all that needs to be done is to start living as the leader you already are, being your best, giving your best and actually making the change we all wish to see in the world.
Kathleen Schafer is the Founder and President of Leadership Connection, through which she has trained individuals and organizations–particularly women and other underrepresented groups–to be effective leaders. Schafer built the political leadership curriculum, still in use, at The George Washington University School of Political Management and is the author of Living The Leadership Choice.