Mind Your Beliefs

| | Personal Leadership

“We are a different class than the janitors.  We have to run for office.  We get attacked by our opponents…”  SEN. Gary Siplin, Press Journal, March 25, 2012

This comment was in response to a bill that would require legislators to pay the same healthcare premiums as other FL state employees.  Siplin, along with other FL State legislators including SEN. Ellen Bogdanoff, SEN. Mike Bennett, and SEN. Evelyn Lynn spoke out against the bill.  It was a rare moment of bipartisan agreement.  Unfortunately what they agreed on is “we” are not like “them” and as such deserve special consideration.

Some might argue the issue is about fairness.  After all, the Senators and the Janitors are both state employees and as such shouldn’t they be treated the same, at least when it comes to basic needs benefits?

On the other hand their contributions, as well as the demands of their jobs, are indeed very different.  So differences in compensation, of which benefits is a component, could be justifiable.

Yet the bigger issue here lies in the beliefs that underlie the arguments of these senators.

As a leaders you must be mindful of the beliefs informing your choices because your choices speak volumes about what and who you really care about.

Because they have the power to choose for themselves by voting on this bill, people are watching to see whether they will vote in their own self interests.  After all, FL state employees (and millions of Americans) did not have choice of whether or not to pay more for their health care benefits.  The choice was made for them.

While I suspect Siplin did not intend to convey his point so crassly and might even have been misquoted, you can’t hide your beliefs.  When any leader, especially our elected officials, sees themselves as a class above those who are counting on their leadership, their ability lead effectively is in jeopardy.  Even if Siplin meant to say “different case” rather than “different class”, his words would be less offensive, but not necessarily indicate a different belief.

People may follow your orders when you have positional power over them, but they can always choose whether or not to follow your lead.

The moment you think you are better than those you lead in any way, you run the risk of degrading trust in you and your leadership.

Siplin’s poor choice of words put his beliefs on loudspeaker and time will tell what the consequences will be for him.    Yet even if you mind your manners by saying all the right words in just the right way, if you want to be an effective leader it behooves you to make sure you mind your beliefs.

Bringing consciousness to what you truly believe will ensure your walk aligns with your talk. And if you want to make sure you stay in touch with the people you lead you may just have to challenge some of the things you believe about you, about them. and the difference between you.

Should FL Senators be paying the same as everyone else? 

Personally I wish they would, not because it is a good move politically, but because they believe we are all in this together and are willing to forgo their power to choose in their own best interests.  We could use a lot more humility from our elected officials.

What do you think?



Enter A Comment

Shawn Murphy   |   01 April 2012   |   Reply

Great commentary and perspective, Susan. I’d add that we also choose how much we’re willing to give of our talents based on the leader and the context he or she creates through choice and resulting leadership.

If indeed the quote you read in the paper is accurate, it’s another example of clueless politicians who have lost touch with constituents.

Susan Mazza   |   03 April 2012   |   Reply

Thanks Shawn.. Appreciate your point about the impact of a leader’s context on how much we are willing to give. A leader who believes others are less than them is unlikely to inspire anyone to give more than is necessary to comply.

Dan Collins   |   01 April 2012   |   Reply

Excellent post. Sadly the issue is not confined to elected officials. Comedy which degenerates to ridicule, social commentary which attacks those who disagree, and anyone who disparages different beliefs and opinion seems to follow the same path of hubris. From this simple guys opinion humility and character determine class.

Susan Mazza   |   03 April 2012   |   Reply

Great points Dan. Love your point about character being the source of real class. Character trumps position when it comes to effective leadership.

Kneale Mann   |   09 April 2012   |   Reply

Susan, I can’t comment on the specifics since I don’t live in Florida but it does point to a large (and ongoing) debate – is privilege increased with title or responsibility or wealth or whatever metric you want to use?

Some say the rite of office brings with it certain perks while the public will be quick to bring out the socialistic arguments.

I think we need to decide whether we want everyone to be given the same treatment and perks – including ourselves – or we agree the system will never been fair. And that is not a public or private sector comment.

The CEO of a Fortune 100 company makes more in a clothing allowance than Barrack Obama makes in annual salary. So as much as your post is about public funds and health care, is it a stretch to suggest it’s about so much more?

Susan Mazza   |   15 April 2012   |   Reply

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kneale. Fair does not always mean equal although as you point out there are a range of interpretations of what fair actually means in practice.

Privileges are not inherently bad or wrong. In fact, they can be a great way to acknowledge the value of someone’s contribution and the risk and difficultly of the responsibilities someone has been entrusted with.

I do think it is how we relate to those privileges that can get us into trouble if we are not mindful. Leadership and entitlement do not go hand in hand.

Scott Mabry   |   18 July 2012   |   Reply

Susan thank you for this great post. Much could be said on the subject of humility. I believe it is simply the most important characteristic of transformational leaders.

Susan Mazza   |   18 July 2012   |   Reply

Thank you Scott. Having had the opportunity to talk with you and from reading your blog I think you have much to say personally about humility that would be welcomed by RAL readers. I would love it if you would write a guest post on the topic!