Every four years we have elections in Sweden, and this year is such a year. When elections come closer, the politicians consequently become more visible and vocal. We start seeing message posters on bus stops and other places. I must confess to normally not being very involved in politics. Though listen enough to be able to have an opinion and give my vote. I feel very strongly that is both my right and my duty to do so and I am very grateful for it.
Politics & The root cause
I have recently discussed political matters with a couple of friends at different occasions. And I find myself being frustrated not only with the political situation, but even more so with the actual politicians’ actions. I do realise that running a country (or a region, or a municipality) is complex. And I have the utmost respect for that. I also have the utmost respect for this quote, attributed to Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”.
That is why it really got to me when I saw an election message poster the other day saying: “Double the prison sentences for gang criminality!”. That, in my opinion, is simplifying beyond reason. It is addressing the symptoms, nowhere near the actual root of the problem. It seems to try to score cheap points with a population of scared swedes. To me, it appears as shortsighted, a way to win the election rather than handling the problem.
It hasn’t always been like that. When I was young there were for sure spiteful debates between the different parties. But it seemed like everyone had the best for our country in mind. They had different ideas about the way, how to achieve the best for Sweden, but this was still the unspoken and very clear aim. What has changed?
When we chatted about these matters today, my friend Jesper found at least one of the reasons. Could it be that some politicians today are in politics primarily to make a career, rather than to do what is best for our country? If that is why they are in politics, to make a career, it would of course change the whole discourse. Even if politicians are not in politics explicitly to make a career, how society to a large extent works today will anyway frame people’s minds into expediency, which would give a similar effect. Care&Growth helps us understand what the core of that problem is.
Give & Take in Politics
When politicians are here to do what is best for the country, they are guided by a big and shiny Benevolent Intent. A higher purpose. When they are in debates, writing articles or speaking at conferences, they will do what they do as well as they can to serve this Benevolent Intent. They are here for something bigger. Something that also includes the opposition, as they are guided by the same Benevolent Intent. The Benevolent Intent, to do what is best for Sweden, joins everyone in the same struggle. The debate will then be about how to best contribute (give) but the contribution itself is a given.
If, on the other hand, politicians are primarily here to make a career, or to win the election, that becomes their expedient goal. They are no longer mainly here to contribute (give). They are here to get. What is best for our country becomes secondary. It is beaten by the urge to compete and win. When that outcome becomes the significant matter, shortsightedness will doubtless follow in its tracks. The old Indian saying that decisions should be made considering seven generations ahead cannot apply then, because then it is too late for my career! One could then argue that there isn’t time to look even a few years ahead, in favour of cheap points for quick wins.
Easy to Replace
Another phenomenon that I connect to the shortsightedness we suffer from in society today is that it seems so easy to replace people. And this is done as an answer to poor performance. A football team didn’t make that finals – get a new coach! A political party is struggling with voting numbers – replace the leader of the party to someone more charismatic and more in line with what people seem to want now! Looking at how long the leaders of the largest Swedish political party, Socialdemokraterna, have stayed in leading position over the years, it has gone from around 20 years per leader (up to 30-40 years ago) and then decreased significantly, down to the lowest of four and one (!) year as the lowest.
I’m sure it is a good idea to now and then switch roles, have a new coach and also a new leader of a political party. 20 years would probably be too long in the 21st century! It seems although as if the change is as a quick fix to get the numbers up. And have a good result in the upcoming election. And that behaviour in turn will lead to shortsightedness by the leaders. “You must look good in each moment; else you will be replaced”. Fear driven politics, like my friend Marianne called it yesterday.
Could it be a similar situation in businesses? I have the same feeling of shortsightedness, with businesses and their leaders fearfully being driven by quarterly reports rather than Benevolent Intent, in the same manner as politicians are driven by opinion polls.
Growing People VS Growing a Career
Talking about business and leadership I always get a bit suspicious when I ask someone what they are studying, and I get the reply “Management”. I’m the first person to want to raise the level and quality of leadership training, but to have that as the line of work that you study for…I’m sceptic. I fear that it feeds a similar sort of trend. Leaders will be there not primarily to serve their subordinates and the Benevolent Intent of their organization, but to make a career.
Managers who think that leadership is about achieving a result through people, to make sure they quickly have a result to show and make a career out of. Who don’t understand that leadership is quite the opposite: to serve, to achieve people through results. That is what we are busy with in Care&Growth: achieving excellent people. The result will follow. That is true for a team, for an organization as well as for a country. We need to achieve excellent, autonomous people. The result will follow, also for a country.
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