Oct 16, 2013 | Leadership

It’s easy to get caught up in the hyperbole and 24-hour finger pointing resulting from the government shutdown.  But, as business leaders, we would be better served if we heed the advice of Winston Churchill who said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

While your competitors spend time today on distractions like the hashtag campaign #DearCongress (hyperlink intentionally omitted), use this opportunity to take stock of what can be learned from how government leaders are conducting themselves. 

Authentic leadership is a relationship where a leader helps stakeholders achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.  The standoff in D.C. can offer valuable lessons for students of leadership. Here are three of which we can take note:

1.  Leadership starts with relationships. The most resilient relationships are not without conflict. Research shows that, although conflict can seem like the opposite of collaboration, conflicts that are acknowledged and processed thoughtfully can actually help a group become more collaborative. The crisis in Washington, in part, stems from the inability to manage conflict in relationships.  Use conflict as opportunities to react constructively to opposing points of view.

2.  Promote trust by reducing risk.  Washington’s determination to create losers for the sake of winning has resulted in an abysmal trust gap among Americans. Authentic leaders understand the need to reduce the risk to those they serve in order to maintain trust. Assuming a winner-takes-all approach creates the greatest risk for all parties involved. Look for opportunities where there can be mutual winners to decrease risk across the board.

3. Think long-term accountability.  In the short-term, all leaders are more comfortable with those who think like we do. But at the end of the day, we’re not accountable to the people who already agree with us.  Just as Congressional leaders are accountable to the entire country, we are accountable to all stakeholders of our organizations. Step out of the boardroom from time-to-time to practice “management by walking around.”  You’ll gain a fresh perspective on the impact your decisions have across the organization.

As leaders, we can allow the drama in D.C. to distract us, or we can use it to draw important leadership lessons.  Choose to buck their example. Build healthy relationships, reduce risk to promote trust, and take the long-term accountability approach to your actions.

Question: How are you reacting to the behavior in D.C.?  Are you following Churchill’s advice?




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