Leadership Lessons From The Great Books – Shorts #14

On politicians, policymakers, and statesmen at work.

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My name is Jesan Sorrells, and this is the Leadership Lessons from the Great Books Podcast- Shorts.
There’s no co-host on shorts.
These are two-to-four-minute observations, ideas, thoughts, or rants, about the literature, philosophy, psychology, and theology of leadership.
There are politicians. There are policy makers. And there are statesmen.
Even at work.
A politician at work is a person with a position and a title who figures our which way to turn by the direction of the organization, the team, or the culture.
Usually, they’re savvy.
Usually, they’re dangerous.
And usually, they rise high because their language and their behaviors are confused with competency at the small things.
A policymaker at work is a person with a position (sometimes), and a title (less often) who examines the data on a particular decision and then makes a determination about how to advise the politician about which decision to make in a sea of confusion and chaos.
Then usually, they wring their hands when that person doesn’t follow through with the recommended decision.
But they lack the charisma, the ability to build rapport, and sometimes even the human empathy to care enough to make that connection past the data they collected that convinced them long ago of the “right” decision a leader should make.
A statesman at work is rare.
This person is competent (unlike the politician) or knows enough to say out loud that they aren’t competent. This person’s behavior and language combine to make rhetoric in the written word persuasive (unlike the policymaker) and in the spoken word charming. This person has enough courage to parse the recommendations of the policymakers and to make a determination about what can work, what could work in the best of all possible worlds, and what will work in the world of work they happen to be in.
And then, over the objections of just about everyone, they lead the organization, the culture, and the team to greater heights than even they thought possible.
The chances are, if you are leading a small team to perform any kind of task, you better be all three—a statesman, a politician, and a policymaker.
The challenge to lead grows as the scale of responsibility, risk of failure, and the fragility of the organizational structure grows over time.
However, the best statesmen look at all of that unflinchingly, as would an Iron Lady, and they refuse the seduction of the U-turn backward.
A statesman, it turns out, is not for turning…