Over the weekend I was talking to my 32 year old son about the coming election.
I thought I was the quintessential cynical old buggar, while being politically engaged, but I had nothing on my formerly optimistic son.
He is not just a cynical young buggar, he is so disengaged that in the long term, it can only be bad for our economic and social life if he is any way representative of his demographic cohort, and I fear he is.
As he said ‘Problem is that the gap between what the pollies say, and what they do is so wide, they have lost any sort of credibility and moral authority’.
Sadly I agree with his analysis, but the core of the problem seems to me that they claim control over things they cannot control, while ignoring, misrepresenting or pork-barrelling the things they can.
It is the same in business.
Those that promise the world do not have any credibility at all, while those that demonstrate the performance and value of what they can control earn our loyalty and respect.
There is a lot those in businesses can control, and should strive to improve.
You can control the way you spend your time. Every job, even those on a manufacturing line has some level of flexibility in the way the time is spent. In management roles of any type, the discretion is significant. You can choose to do what may be apparently urgent, but is unimportant, or those things that may not be urgent, but are important. It is those who elect the latter route that will prosper in the long run.
You control the way you behave. Those who say one thing and do another, or worse, demand behaviour of others they are unwilling to demand of themselves will be judged failed leaders.
You control your attitude. An optimistic person has an effect on those around them, infecting them with your optimism and enthusiasm
You control your leadership style. Dictatorial, aggressively demanding results without consideration of the personal toll that may take, or you can be a coach and mentor, seeking to improve the results by improving those around you.
You control the way you see opportunities. Often opportunities are in the problems being faced, but if all you see are the problems, the opportunities will pass on by.
You can choose where credit/recriminations are levelled. The best leaders I have seen have a common characteristic: they give credit to others, even when the credit is largely due to themselves, and they take absolute responsibility for the performance within their span of control, never seeking to allocate blame elsewhere.
You can choose to have a clear and unambiguous moral compass, or purpose in your life. Having a purpose, and living to that purpose is empowering for individuals and the groups they interact with. Even when others disagree with you the simple presence of a foundation of beliefs that drive your behaviour will get you considerable credit, loyalty and an ability to get things done.
When you think about it, politicians have exactly the same choices we in business have.
Perhaps it is their collective failure to adhere to the basic tenets of leadership that has us so disillusioned with them all.
I predict that come next Sunday, there will be a narrow Coalition win, but the outstanding feature will be the percentage of the first preference votes that go to other than the two major parties, particularly amongst those under 30 whose expectations have been shaped by different factors to those that shaped their parents. This group will also exercise their compulsory obligation to vote by deliberately voting informal. This will not be a ‘donkey’ vote, it will be a vote against what these youngsters see as the irrelevance, hubris and self interest of the political class. It will be fascinating to watch the spin the major parties put on this disaffection, assuming that both, somebody does the analysis and I am right.