Hopefully our state leaders and legislators have good intentions for the upcoming year. Certainly most do.
But, as 18th Century English essayist, moralist, biographer, and lexicographer Samuel Johnson taught, good intentions alone often beget more hellish than heavenly results.
Witness the way our Legislature works. All know tough decisions must be made. Yet, we often see little consensus, mostly fuss and factionalism.
Makes you wonder if those involved ever step away and observe everyone’s behavior.
In “Leadership Without Easy Answers,” Ron Heifetz urges leaders to periodically “get on the balcony” to overlook the fray. That is about the only way authentic leaders can externalize conflict and see paths to resolution when dealing with difficult problems, he says.
No problem in Mississippi. Our venerable State Capitol has balconies galore.
But visitors to the balcony galleries in the House and Senate seldom walk away having seen resolution built on consensus. Rather, if they walk out to peer over Rotunda balconies, they see lobbyists maneuvering legislators toward actions that favor one special interest or another.
Instead of the broad perspective Heifetz hopes leaders will see, too many of our leaders tend to lock themselves into narrow perspectives. “Reframing Organizations” by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal helps us understand. Their study of leaders found tendencies to see the world from one of four frames – factory, family, jungle, or temple. In simple terms, factory folk tie solutions to structure and organization; family folk tie solutions to human needs; for jungle folk it’s all about power; and temple folk focus on inspiration and ritual.
Early in the new legislative session, the vote on whether or not to seat Representative Bo Eaton may suggest how many of our Republican legislators fit the jungle frame. Eaton is the incumbent Democrat who drew the long straw to win over Republican challenger Mark Tullos after the two tied in the general election.
Many see all government decisions as jungle stuff – power games. Power games are real, often spurred on by lobbyists, and do have impact. But, lasting solutions seldom result from crushing the opposition.
Lasting solutions to tough problems, say Heifetz, Bolman and Deal, and other leadership scholars, occur when all factions come together to find common ground. Stephen Covey called this seeking win-win, mutually beneficial solutions.
Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson seems to get it. “What I try to do is find ways that we can develop common ground,” he says.
Bolman and Deal say lasting solutions result when all four of their frames are pulled together. Decisions that fix structure, address human needs, reconcile power, and inspire action tend to generate lasting solutions.
Sometimes such solutions can be painful at the front end but lay a solid foundation for the future. An example of this would be a solution to our crumbling road and bridge infrastructure.
All eyes will be on our Governor and Legislature this week to see how they frame government for the new year.
» Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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