I write this as we in the United States are on the verge of a federal government shutdown if our politicians cannot reach budget agreement today. The ramifications of such a shutdown are significant, and will effect many people’s lives. 800,000 federal employees won’t get paid, some people in need won’t receive services, and government facilities will close and not be available to the public.
And check this out: Linda is on her way to Washington D.C. right now to deliver a speech on leading transformation to – of all audiences – the Treasury Department, which will be cancelled if the government shuts down.
Will America get through this mess? Of course we will. The budge will get resolved, at least on the surface, but the underlying problem will linger, and this should be a deeper, growing concern for all of us.
The government shutdown is a result of egos run amuck. It is a reflection of our politician’s lower selves on display, not their best selves in action.
Here’s the underlying human dynamic occuring. Ego takes a position, establishes a boundary and does not want to move or compromise. Its position becomes an extention of its self. It ideologizes and makes those not adhering to its position wrong. The “other” becomes the enemy.
The ego holds itself as right, the other wrong, and is not readily open to being influenced. Collaboration is not its first instinct. It struts its feathers, puffs its chest and pontificates its moral positions.
And here’s the problem with these dynamics. Ego gets so wrapped up in this dance, that what is best for its larger community gets lost. Its identify with its self/position as republican or democrat, conservative or liberal becomes more important that what is best for America, let alone the world. It becomes more interested in winning the battle of ideologies and making its party look good and the other bad, than it cares about its fellow citizens. Its political conquest takes precedence over its public service. Of course, ego thinks it is right, and that adhering to its position is what is best for America.
The problems we face in our organizations, our countries and the world, cannot be resolved through ideology and pontification. Our leaders, and all of us, must wake up and become conscious of this continual lower self dance of the ego. We have to look up and across to a larger perspective, not continually focus down and in to our own worldviews. Otherwise, we can never really collaborate and generate the breakthroughs that can only come by our collective, co-creative participation.
The best solutions always come when we take a stand for and voice what we believe, and then open ourselves to listening to others and being willing to be influenced by their input. If our leaders and politicians would do that, then the dialogue would naturally evolve to the best solutions. But when the underlying motivation is ego driven – and we are unconscious of that – at best, we get compromise and marginal outcomes. This political, ego driven dance will end with the budget getting resolved, but whatever the outcome, it will not be the best possible solution.
Where are our co-creative leaders? You won’t find many in government, nor will you find many more in business. I saw research recently that suggested than more than 60% of leaders are not capable of leading. Ouch. This is a deeper concern for all of us.
What dynamics do you see at play in this budget standoff?