Three Key Leadership Mistakes Government Employees Make

The author lists three mistakes federal employees are prone to make in leadership roles that are likely to leave them feeling 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 and 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 “Gifts” (the sum total of your talents, skills, abilities, experiences, desires, longings, quirks, and so-called flaws) that you naturally bring into the world.  When you accept and develop your Gifts, you create the opportunity for others to accept and develop theirs.  As you grow more confident and skilled in mastering your own Gifts, the leadership processes and tactics you learned in your organization’s training programs become more effective and less difficult to implement.

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 to meet today’s challenges for the long haul, each person must fully integrate their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects in everything they do.  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 she sees that job as the ideal place for her to exercise her Gifts as opposed to the employee who goes through the motions for 8 hours a day just so she can leave the office and attempt to get her real fulfillment or satisfaction elsewhere.  At home, the Conscious Leader recognizes that the parent who offers his Gifts in a job he loves and models that service and abundance for his 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 other places but would never work here.

In the world of the government employee, the idea of aligning oneself with work that taps into the employee’s highest and best Gifts, 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, 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 resources to meet the challenges ahead of them.

NOTE:  ENCOURAGING THIS “BEING” IS NOT THE ORGANIZATION’S JOB!  It’s yours.  The key is that Conscious Leadership is NOT something that can be “built” into any organization by regulation.  The only way to create Conscious Leadership within your organization is to accept the responsibility to create it within yourself first.  When you do, you will realize that the opportunity was always there.  And until you do, you will never see those opportunities.

What would be different if you focused your attention on your Gifts?

About the Author

Martha Wilson is a retired CIA Operations Officer, leadership instructor, transformational coach and the founder of Greatness In Government, a leadership and personal development firm that specializes in re-energizing mid-career government employees. Organizations that are struggling with complaints about bad leaders, discrimination, bullying and other symptoms of employee dissatisfaction hire her when they are ready for a fresh approach to leadership training. She also provides private coaching to high-potential government employees who have decided to assume responsibility for their own personal and professional development.