Last week in Tulsa it was all the rage to critique the mayors handling of the great snow (I’m sure we have moved on to something else by now) . I don’t really know if they did a good job clearing the snow quickly or not. I am sure there are things they could have done better, and things they did very well.
What I am sure of though is that there are lots of people who clearly know best more then willing to Monday morning quarterback. One person I heard said something like “it is ridiculous that the school parking lots are not clear so that kids can go back to school. It was extremely poor planning to not have the schools cleared.” Now, at this point nobody would have been able to get to the schools even if the parking lot was clear. So, it seems that leaving the schools until last is more effective. But, to this person school being closed had become a symbol of the cities inability to clear the streets.
It seems like this is a great little example of a bigger trend in the way we think about leaders (political or otherwise). We are so focused on symbols that we forget the big picture. We have decided that the most important thing is getting the school parking lot cleared that we never notice that there are people stuck in their cars on the highway, and that it might be good to help them out first. So, we demand that our leaders deal with this issue at the detriment of what is important. Now we have put our leaders in an awkward spot. If they don’t deal with our pet issue we kick them out of power (by not electing them, leaving their church, or voting them off the board), or we sabotage what they are doing that is good because don’t think they are paying attention to us.
Over time our leaders have lost the ability to think big picture and long term because they do so at the risk of losing their position. Or, perhaps the people who can do this are not willing to put themselves into a position where they will not be allowed to.
I don’t think this is the only issue that leads to bad leadership, but it seems like part of the mix. And there are plenty of good leaders who have figure out ways around this. But I do wonder how we can create a culture and a system that allowes leaders the freedom to do really good stuff, even if our pet issue gets ignored.