What People (Can) Teach Us: The Democrats – Respect, Understanding, and Preparation
Democrats swept political seats across the country earlier this week on Election Day, picking up seats and taking control of state legislatures, governor’s mansions, city councils, etc.
Elections sweeps, some may say, in general, are eventually par for the course when one party takes the majority in each of the political landscapes at the federal, state, and local level – the next time around, the pendulum swings the other way to make up for a previous swing too far in one direction.
But this was overwhelming — a blue wave as it’s been called. It seemed to be a grassroots groundswell in response to the political environment and atmosphere which has gripped the country.
“Whether in politics or not, one needs to be sure to think about everything that has happened and could happen in the future.”
Hyperbole aside, what is it that happened? How did so many get in the race – some for the first time, and of various religions, and sexual orientations and identities– and win their seats?
Some were fueled by personal reasons and losses. Some ran in order to rise up against the divisiveness that has gripped the country in recent years. Others ran specifically in direct opposition to what they saw as the agenda of the POTUS.
Whatever the reason, the wins were numerous and the upsets plentiful.
And there are various lessons to be taken away from the results — and any shift in power, for that matter — as they apply to the leadership prerequisites of respect, understanding, and preparation.
First, as a sign of respect, the winners should never dismiss the losers.
Second, it is imperative that the top leaders understand what it is that drives those on the front lines.
Third, it’d be wise to not let one’s vision be clouded by the wins.
Let’s break these considerations down.
So, first – not dismissing the losers. In order to maintain the momentum in one direction and avoid a swing back in the opposition’s favor, how should these winners proceed? What steps do they take? Ideologies and expectations play a big role in how they function and carry out their work.
Politics is similar to organizations in that the leaders represent the constituents of the organization or region. But, where it differs is the explicit demarcation set by parties. Although some organizations may have political undercurrents of factions vying for power and credit, in politics, these leaders tend to steer explicitly in a certain direction to achieve and/or maintain their party’s priorities.
But, in both instances it’s important to keep the opposition in mind. It’s crucial that the other side be able to maintain a semblance of a voice in what is taking place in that region, district, or company.
“The work does not end at the achievement of a status or position; more effort might be required, in fact, in the retention and maintenance of the role.”
This kind of outreach thwarts or, at the very least, minimizes the likely threat of growing divisiveness and deepening fractures in relationships.
How will you embrace, and not turn away, those who did not support you or see the world through your eyes and views?
Second, it is critical that top leaders understand what it is that drives those on the front lines.
In the case of the country’s politics, it’s important for the national leadership to be realistic about what role it actually played in the wins. Yes, obviously, the Democratic National Committee and its Chairman, Tom Perez, wanted wins up and down the ballot, but was it really that support that ignited the party or was it something each of these groups and individuals, in their own regions, realized, harnessed, and executed on their own? Those at the top of the Democratic Party should open their eyes to what it is that really fired people up.
In that same fashion, leaders of traditional organizations should do the same. They should seek to be honest and open to understanding what it is that truly drives someone to achieve their mission and goal. It’s not simply because a leader states a goal and provides some resources and support.
What is the internal driver of those on the front line? That’s what’s going to dictate the win.
Finally, it’s imperative that you don’t let your vision be degenerated by your wins.
Aside from respecting those on the other side and understanding what the front line person needs and wants, it’s important for everyone involved to savor the win but also remain vigilant and focused afterward. The work does not end at the achievement of a status or position; more effort might be required, in fact, in the retention and maintenance of the role.
“…leaders of traditional organizations should…seek to be honest and open to understanding what it is that truly drives someone to achieve their mission and goal.”
Whether in politics or not, one needs to be sure to think about everything that has happened to-date and which could happen in the future.
One should never be complacent in their development and growth, and that is especially the case when they have achieved a new status or leadership position.
One has to earn their leadership twice – once on the way to the official title, and again in the reassurance of others that the title was deserved.
In the end, recognize that others are always watching. What will you do with the attention? What will you learn?