“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?