It’s a Fiscal Cliff! It’s a Sequester! It’s Ineffective Leadership?

As much as I would like to jump on the “sequester bandwagon” and write yet another article about the impact this enormous change will have on our country, I’m going to take a different approach on the topic that is monopolizing water cooler discussions these days. I, like the rest of us, have been reading articles, listening to news reports, and paying attention to other’s viewpoints on what the sequester means to them, their interpretations on how we got to this point, and the personal connections they have to specific individuals that will be heavily influenced by this modification. But let’s take a look at the overall leadership that has, for the most part, guided this nation to be where it’s at today.

Most of us are familiar with The Best Places to Work report published by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte. The report is a survey that includes information on how federal employees feel about their workplace and their individual roles with regard to issues such as leadership, training and development, pay, and teamwork. The object of the survey is to alert leaders to areas that are falling short of employee’s expectations and satisfaction. According to the 2012 report, there are three key factors that are the driving influencers among federal staff. These factors include; effective leadership, agency mission and employee skill match, and satisfaction with pay. All three of these factors are significant, but let me call out that for the seventh time in a row, effective leadership has been the principal component that is said to drive employee satisfaction and commitment to their jobs in the federal workplace. The category that evaluates how much leadership at all levels of the organization “generates motivation and commitment, encourages integrity and manages people fairly, while also promoting the professional development, creativity and empowerment of employees,” is the lowest-rated category in the report.

There is no doubt that if this sequester happens, it will have an additional impact on already strained learning and development training budgets. Although this may resolve immediate budget issues, it will only cause far more intense repercussions in the long run. We are already seeing employees leave their public sector jobs in droves. We can’t continue to put a bandage on a much larger wound. A seven-year decline in how our nation’s leaders are performing is a significant indication that improvements are imperative.

Perhaps we need more servant leaders in the federal government, leaders that know their role is to help people achieve their goals. Servant leaders try to determine what their people need to perform well and live according to the agency’s vision and mission. Their goals are focused on the greater good and focuses on two major components of leadership-vision and implementation. Take three minutes and watch this video titled, It’s Always the Leader. In it, Ken Blanchard talks about a trip he took to the DMV and was pleasantly surprised by his experience with the facility’s leadership.

I can only imagine what federal public servants are feeling in this tumultuous time. Want a place to vent? Send in a video of how you’re doing even more with less in your role. Or, if you’re happy with the leadership at your agency (Congrats, NASA!), send us a video about how your leader motivates and inspires you to put your best food forward.

Read more about leadership and the Federal Government at

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Daniel Crystal

The sequestration may be a chance to get rid of some “dead weight” leaders that are effectively clogging the drain. There’s always a silver lining.

William H. Devereaux, III

Spot on Kristina!! Leadership starts at the top… Including the President. He needs to get off the election bandwagon ….taking it to the people asking them to bug their representatives…. HE needs to work with representatives from both sides and lead. Not with ultimatums to the other side but with openness and compromise.

Victor Huot

Leadership or lack there-of is what put us into this mess. The president continues to lie about this being someone else’s fault when in fact he put the team together over a year ago only to see them reach no consensus. He never once entered the room to assist and provide leadership directly, he left it to them and then came up with this never gonna happen sequester plan. Now, once again he does not roll up his sleeves and demand a team meeting but rather pulls a political stunt of a meeting with the heads of the parties. And he does this after the official start of sequester. Let’s talk about leadership! I served for over 20 years as an enlist man and even the most junior person could see a poor leader, much like they see now. I followed and served with some outstanding leaders and I learned from the poor ones. I am learning now that come next election MY VOTE WILL COUNT. I WILL NOT VOTE IN ANY MAN/WOMAN CURRENTLY SITTING IN THE SENATE/CONGRESS. I WILL NOT. There is the glimmer of hope that the American people will come to their senses and stop voting in the same deadbeats and hoping for a different outcome. this insanity has to STOP!

Javier Porras

Amen…Victor! I have been following the “no vote for incumbent politicians” philosophy for a long time and I am happy to hear you will do the same – it’s time to make a difference with our vote. I wish other people would do the same rather than voting blindly for their political party.

Pat Alford

I wish our illustrious leaders were subject to the same rating scale many of us federal employees are. At this point, they’d all be rated “less than fully successful” and placed on an opportunity-to-improve letter…

Alternately, we all have a responsibility to make our votes count – whether at the local or national levels.

Erica Bakota

Question: Is there a list of agencies that are undertaking furloughs as a result of the sequester? I’m not just interested from a government employee standpoint- I think taxpayers have a right to know which agencies will be forced to offer reduced services as a result of the sequester. Just like our pay scales are not a secret, I don’t think it should be a secret as to who has to cut employee hours.

John L. Waid

As a state employee who has gone through the furlough process already, it is hard for me to have sympathy for federal employees finally facing the same issues we have. They have been so far insulated from the problems that we have had to deal with for years. It’s time the federal government felt the same kinds of pressures that we have felt. With all the talk about “cuts,” what we are really talking about in a reduction in spending. The feds will still spend more this upcoming year than they did last year. That is not a cut in spending.

Everyone on both sides of the state and federal aisles wants the same thing — a way to “fix” (that is, paper over) their fiscal problems without hurting anyone they actually care about. Public employees are not on that list. If there is anyting a politican hates more than having to set priorities, I don’t know what it is. That means they have to say “No” to someone, something they will turn themselves inside out to avoid doing or will try to fob the blame off onto someone else.

Regarding your column, we are sadly lacking in the kind of leadership that sets the example. There is a story told of Alexander the Great. It may be apochryphal, but I hope it’s true. His army was marching across the desert toward India. Water was short, and the men were suffering fro mnthirst. A captain offered Alexander a skin of water. He handed it back saying something to the effect of “I will not drink until my men have slaked their thirst.” And he didn’t until they reached the Indus River.

In Squadron Officers School in the Air Force, we learned that it was our job to set the standard. No one respects a leader who does not share his employees’ hardships. In this day and age when legislators sue to avoid wage cuts they foist on their own employees, it’s small wonder our “leadership” is held in such small repute.

People had the opportunity to send a clear message to Congress last election, and they failed to do so. They thus ensured this result. Maybe now they will discover they don’t need all these “services” which seem to do little more than take working people’s money and give it to non-working people. I think the feds fear that more than anything else. Too many programs at the state level are funded by the feds, which is not how this country was designed to work. Maybe now it will become so obvious that people will finally do something.

Alan L. Greenberg

As a federal retiree I’m somewhat insulated from direct and immediate effects of sequestation (another fancy word created by Congress to obscure their own ineptitude) but I feel for those impacted. Fed bashing once again seems to be a politically acceptable and convenient way to address the problem. Does anybody remember the “supercommittee” that avoided and delayed solving the problem which led to this mess? Probably not. That was by design. I wish I had the answers but draconian cuts may be necessary, so long as they’re in the right places. This is what the corporate world does in a crisis. Furloughing is just lip service which will cost more in the long run. I was with GSA and believe me, I saw more pork projects than a pig farm. I would love to see our so-called leaders in Congress come forth and say they don’t need the projects in their district – yes, those very projects which give them all those photo opps. I’m waitng for the first elected official to say “Close a few post offices in my district.” I recall an interview with a sitting judge. He was asked by a congressional committee member doing a self serving investigative report on judicial costs why the courts have expanded so much. The judge’s simple answer was, “Because Congress passes too many laws.”

I’ve had my rant for the day. For more wisdom check out my blogs and You Tube extravaganzas which are linked to my website.

Victor Huot


Speaking of pork and how it gets us into trouble. Have you heard about the $50 Billion dollar superstorm Sandy package put together to help thise states affected? I’m sure you have, but did you know that roughly $13 Billion dollars of it is for things totally unrelated to the storm? It is so wrong and obvious that one mayor discussed it with a reporter stating ” it’s wrong. This is taxpayer money and it has no right being in this package” or words to the effect.

This is the broken BS the elected officials need to stop. I say, all bills should be attached to an itemized statement and let the taxpayer see it! My rant for the day as well.

Just remember to vote out these idiots. We need fresh ideas!!

Victor Huot

To John Waid:

The elcection proved that people, whether state, civilian of federal like the fed taking care of them. These fools do not realize that the socialist’s are trying very hard to implement their ways into our democracy. People are blinded by the fed taking such good care of them. (tongue in cheek)

John Waid

To Victor and Allen:

Another story. Our previous representative was just finishing up his second term in the House. It came out that he could have grabbed off about $4 million in fed money (pork) for our district but hadn’t. When the local paper gave him a hard time, he said that he had been elected to cut spending like this. The reporter acutally said, “But not in our district.” The swimming pool built with federal money in my district is necessary for the health and welfare of my children, but if it’s built in your district, it’s pork. How do we deal with thinking like that? The voters may decry pork but they reward the congressman who brings it home. Politicans aren’t stupid. They hear what voters say but pay more attention to what voters do.

The liberals in Washington are reaping the benefits of 40 years of educating Americans to be risk-averse and to listen to the siren song of those who would take care of us if we just give up a little control over our own lives. Children are being punished for being competitive and for defending themselves against bullies in the schoolyard. How to they learn to be responsible for themselves? Children are not being taught that the government runs on their money; it has no money of its own. How will they ever know to say “Enough?”

Alan L. Greenberg

Victor, that’s exactly my point, or one of them. There is so much snuck into unrelated legislation that it almost borders on fraud, because these add ons benefit limited people. It’s a matter of buying votes with a quid pro quo. I can tell you from first hand experience that the funding for many capital projects does not come from any meaningful demonstration of need but from wording inserted into unrelated legislation after some back room horse trading. This is not what our founding fathers had in mind. See my February 4th Facebook Page post for a perfect example. (If you see fit you can also “Like” the page.)

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

Glad to hear you say that Alan because I have been thinking that a petition needs to start circulating for a bill called the Simple Law. All laws should be passed with one (1) point that is being made and language should be meaningful to Joe Public. No ‘additives’ should be ‘tacked on’ and buried in superfluous rhetoric . It is either good for all the people or not. If it is for a specific group, then why bury it and hide it. If it is a good cause, why would you need to? It is good to have special funding to help support good works.

But this blog is about good leadership. Good leadership is about honorable leadership. People who do not look down their noses at the people who work for them, just as those who are performing jobs that require customer service should not be looking down their noses at their customers. The leadership video was great. The director sitting out where he is just as answerable to the citizen as the people who work for him.

I have been asking if everyone gets furloughed or if it is just going to be the lower levels who are already on the chopping block. I haven’t seen a lot of ‘fluff’ coming off the top levels, no sacrifices there.

Our group has already been operating at maximum speed. We have done more with less for a long time. Our boss today at staff meeting said, we are going to be doing less with less. She started here about a year ago and has noted that we are already like a whirlwind. She is having to keep up with us and says we need to back it down. Too much stress, too much rushing, creates safety issues and health issues. She gave us permission to not keep upping the ante until we come unglued. Good leadership.

Tom Melancon

Great post Kristina. It’s easy to blame. In times of crisis, true leaders are born. I am keeping my attention focused on doing what I can to run a quality program. The rest is so far out of my control that worrying about it only leads to frustration.