Diary of a Frustrated Young Professional – Oh Leader Where Art Thou?

Dear all knowing internet,

Remember the Where’s Waldo books from your childhood? I remember being entertained for hours trying to find Waldo wondering amass a sea of interesting characters. Well my friends, that’s how I feel about the leaders in government. I sometimes feel like my perception of a leader (forward thinking, loyal, open minded, decisive) doesn’t exist in a mass of managerial mediocrity.

I remember from my graduate school days and my management classes (for disclosure purposes I am not a manager) exercises where we would name the different characteristics that separate leaders from managers.

Leaders would always be described like a mythical creature with adjectives such as visionary, empowering, collaborative, etc. One would think of something out of a fairy tale or a movie.

I am pretty familiar with what characteristics make up a leader, but my question is “where are they”. At least in state government, it seems that someone who fits the description of a leader is very rare. With a lack of leaders, how is a new generation of government workers supposed to learn to lead?

It seems the current method of teaching leadership (and management) in government (by this I mean internally teaching leadership skills) is by learning what not to do and hope that you remember what you learned when you eventually get the opportunity to lead.

My questions to you is: Does someone you would consider a leader exist in your organization and if so how do they prepare the next generation of government leaders ? Let me know your thoughts.

Yours Truly ,

Young and Frustrated

Image taken from http://veryrandomthoughts.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/dont-be-a-wally/

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Some of my favorite gov’t leaders (which are a little mythical) are General Petraeus, Thad Allen. People also said same about Kip Hawley when he was at TSA

Geoffrey C. Patterson

Sadly, working for one of our military agencies I have to look long and hard to find a leader on the local level. I have worked or been around 3 branches for 25 years and true leaders are indeed hard to find. While it may be difficult to rattle off quickly what a true leader is, you tend to ‘know it when you see it’. Characteristics like, ethics, loyalty to mission, loyalty to people up and down the chain of command, all seem easy to say but difficult in execution. It is frustrating when you see that absence of leadership in others, perhaps the best we can do is strive to maintain those same characteristics ourselves. Leaders come from all levels of government and sometimes the best leader is the one who is not in charge.

Alex Harrington

I appreciate and understand your frustration. It seems that there is a significant vacuum of genuine, true leaders today in government. But be encouraged. There are some good leaders hidden away in the far corners of state/federal bureaucracies. They may not hold official, senior positions, but they’re there. You just have to find them. And if, for some reason, you cannot find them, then I would recommend becoming that leader you so desire. One simple principle that I have learned in the Marine Corps: “A true leader will not make himself look warm in front of his troops during the winter”. In short, as a leader your folks come first, you go last.

Jay Johnson

If you look around you and you can’t see a leader, guess what, opportunity is knocking. Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.