In Politics and Leadership, Declaring Victory Often Means the Opposite

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , September 11, 2009

I once had a friend who would always offer this rejoinder whenever he thanked me for doing some small favor, to which I always responded, "It was the least I could do." We'd always share a laugh when he would come back with, "The least you could have done is nothing. And doing nothing is always an option."

Indeed. But sometimes doing something is worse than nothing. Ostensibly, you elect representatives to get up to Washington and DO something. They go in with big ideas, but then political reality sets in, they compromise, pass something, and declare victory.

Translation: "Voters elect us to pass laws, so we passed one. We know it may well be a boondoggle. In our heart of hearts, we think it definitely won't achieve the goals it sets out to, but you will have re-elected me by then, so who cares?" The truth is, voters elect you to lead, and passing laws is only an important part of the job of leadership.

Declaring victory, on the other hand, is cynical, political, and it sure as heck isn't leadership.

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Philip Betbeze is senior leadership editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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