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3 Key Leadership Mistakes Government Employees Make That Leave Them Burned Out and Frustrated.

Mistake 1. Thinking that leadership is something you learn to do.

Leadership is not something you “do,” it is something you “be.” In other words, leadership is not a series of required actions you take, rather it is the essence of who you are, the impact you have on those around you. You don’t “learn” leadership. You grow into it. You grow into effective, positive leadership by deliberately and consciously choosing to develop the natural talents, gifts and abilities that you bring to the world. Whether at work or elsewhere, the good news and bad news is that each of us is a leader whether we want to be or not. The definition of leadership is “influencing those around you.” Whether intentional or not, each of us influences others every day in every moment just by being around them. Whether we choose to use our role as leaders positively or negatively, effectively or ineffectively, is a choice. That choice is the definition of Conscious Leadership.

Mistake 2. Thinking that work and personal lives should be completely independent of one another. “Check your personal life in the parking lot.”

Here’s the bad news: There is no such thing as work/life balance. Work is part of our lives and life is part of our work. We can’t cut ourselves in half and put part in one place and part in another…though a lot of us have tried that. In order for us to meet today’s challenges for the long haul, we need each person to fully integrate their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. We need the whole person to show up on purpose each day whether they are showing up at work, at home, at school, or somewhere else. Conscious Leadership focuses on authenticity and the higher purpose of the organization and each individual in it. At work the conscious leader recognizes the benefit of the employee who is in a job because they truly see that job as the ideal place for them to offer their best talents and gifts as opposed to the employee who goes through the motions for 8 hours a day just so they can leave the office and attempt to get their real fulfillment/joy/fun (choose the word that works best for you) elsewhere. At home the conscious leader recognizes that the parent who provides their service in a job they love and models that gift of service and abundance for their child is a far better parent than the one who is stressed out, burned out and exhausted just from getting through the day.

Mistake 3. Thinking that this Conscious Leadership stuff sounds nice and might work in the corporate world but would never work in government.

In the world of the government employee, the idea of aligning oneself with work that taps into the employee’s highest and best gifts and that feeds the greatest sense of fulfillment has never been more important. As benefits continue to decrease, promotions come farther apart, and even the job security previously associated with government service comes into question, embracing Conscious Leadership and encouraging each employee to truly BE their own authentic, unique, natural leader is the only way that our organizations are going to have the creative, innovative, unlimited resources required to meet the challenges ahead of them. NOTE: THIS IS NOT YOUR ORGANIZATION’S JOB! It’s yours. The key here is that Conscious Leadership is NOT something that is “built” into the organization by regulation or mandate. The only way to create and grow Conscious Leadership within your organization is to is to create and grow it within yourself. When you choose to become a conscious leader you will recognize your greatest ability to impact the future of your organization, get the stress out of your life, and put the fun back in your work.

For additional tips on being a conscious leader, visit www.freegiftfrommartha.com or check us out on Facebook at Conscious Leadership Blueprint. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What’s the biggest challenge you face in becoming a conscious leader?

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Joel Wisner

I think mistake number two is spot on and I always say that I do not have a balance, I have a work/life blend. I don’t stop who I am at work and I don’t stop thinking about the great things I want to accomplish in my career when I walk away from my desk. Of course we’ve all seen those who are obsessed with their work, and this is something different. When I’m having fun with family and friends, that’s what I’m doing, but I’m still the same person who has a career I care about. Same when I’m at work – my personal experiences and life impact my work and motivate many of my interactions and plans for the future, hopefully in a positive way.

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

Great points. Our agency is on a big push to train leadership. I have been through this before at many companies, watched managers go through training. They can spew the words back to upper management, but never apply it to their leadership. I have seen some very destructive managers.

Jaime Gracia

Great post. Accepting responsibility, and holding others and yourself accountable is still a struggle at the federal level, but these points would go a long way to the type of leadership government needs.

Dannielle Blumenthal

Fear of looking weak makes you look weak. Instead the skill is calculated vulnerability. You admit what is wrong, but in an in-control way. This is the #1 ability a leader should have, because like my father in law says, “The chance is one in a million, but there are a million and one things.”

Samuel F Doucette

The Air Force Wingman concept is a lot like Point 2. As Wingmen, we are all asked to look out for our fellow Airmen (military, civilian, and contractor) by assessing the status of the four “engines” of wellness — spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical. We have to translate wellness concepts like this into something the fighter pilots who run the Air Force understand. 🙂

Anne-Marie Marshall-Dody

Great article. The book “Leadership and Self-Deception” by the Arbinger Institute expands on these points even further.

Elena Miller

It’s not that I don’t understand the idea of Conscious Leadership, it’s the etymology of the phrase, the combination of words ‘conscious’ and ‘leadership’ that doesn’t make sense to me. In my opinion, ‘conscious’ is one of the leadership prerequisites. On the other hand, Servant Leadership, the concept of which I’m very fond of, is the type of leadership that can spark a profound change and empower. “The person who influences me most is not he who does great deeds but he who makes me feel I can do great deeds. Many people tell me what I ought to do and just how I ought to do it, but few have made me want to do something. Whoever has struck fire out of me, aroused me to action which I should not otherwise have taken, he has been my leader”- Mary Parker Follett, The New State, 1918.

Martha Austin


Thank you so much for your comments. I completely agree with you that “conscious” should be a leadership prerequisite. Sadly, for so many people it really isn’t. Or more correctly, they don’t know what they don’t know and therefore do not choose to consciously explore and grow. Thanks again…Martha