Saturday, August 6, 2011

Downgraded - Lessons from Congress

Foresight is a critical leadership characteristic.  Foresight enables leaders to envision potential intended and unintended consequences of their thinking, calculate risks and rewards of their choices, and prioritize actions.  As a group, the United States Congress has failed to display collective foresight and now the global economy will pay the bill.  What can you learn as a leader?  Here are four thoughts:

1)  Avoiding a problem does not mean solving a problem.  Congress has avoided the problem of a balanced budget and unsustainable social programs for too long.  They knew there was a ticking bomb in the closet - they just  didn't know when it would explode.  Life has a way of making leaders pay for what is avoided at the worst times.  Leaders must identify and solve problems in a timely and sustainable manner.

2)  Focus on the key problems first.  This Congress has wasted extraordinary time, money, and energy on a debt limit debate while the economy stalled.  The arguments in Congress increased anxiety and uncertainty in the business sector.  In fact, despite warnings - Congress failed to meet the standards of global credit rating agencies.  Yesterday - Standard and Poor downgraded US debt ratings.  This is a costly mistake and another psychological blow to a reeling economic outlook.  Congress spent too long in the wrong conversation.  The economy needs a boost; congress should be focused on increasing job growth and sustainable productivity.  Make sure you are in the right leadership conversation for your situation.  Ensure you prioritize your problem solving to meet your situation.

3)  Leaders must learn to say no.  Politicians get elected by saying yes to people.  Leaders are liked when they say yes to people.  Leaders must learn to say no if a decision is unsustainable, a plan doesn't make sense, or the situation demands a shift in thinking and planning.  The economic reality means many Congressmen will have to break promises to their constituents and shift their priorities.  Planning is a continuous process - sometimes leaders act to compel actions and sometimes they react.  Congressional leaders must enter a new reality to guide the nation effectively in the future.  You must learn how and when to say no for the long term good of the team.

4)  Be a leader - take the blame and start leading.  Republicans and Democrats will start pointing fingers today.  Everyone is to blame; everyone has a part in it.  We all need to accept our part and start doing what we can do to improve the situation.  Many politicians will start campaigning for the next election by spending time, money, and energy on blaming people.  This is part of the system - it cannot be avoided.  However, there is much work to do.  The real anxiety over future cuts, continued unsustainable spending, economic fragility, and another recession has just begun.

Leaders provide purpose, direction, inspiration, and hope.  This is an important time to speak and act toward solutions which will help you, your family, your organization, and your community thrive despite the poor fiscal leadership and discipline shown by Congress.  Do something to help your situation, talk to your team, evaluate your plan, take positive steps forward, and cause something to happen.  Don't wait for Congress to solve your problems - be a leader.

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