A lapse in leadership communication?

The Office of Personnel Management’s Human Capital Survey for 2006 has been out six months. More than 220,000 feds responded to the survey, and the report is full of fascinating conclusions that all federal employees—at whatever level—should review. (You can download a print version at www.fhcs2006.opm.gov/Published/.)

OPM’s analysis paints a picture of workers who are uniformly content with the nature of their jobs and their roles in their respective agencies’ missions. Respondents also award consistently high marks to their colleagues’ dedication, energy, and team spirit.

But these warm fuzzies tend to fall off somewhat when the questions turn to agency leadership and senior managers’ real-world interaction with the rank-and-file. Consider these survey items, for instance:
o I have a high level of respect for my organization’s senior leaders.
o How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job?
o How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what’s going on in your organization?
o How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your senior leaders?
o How satisfied are you with your opportunity to get a better job in your organization?

All these questions received ratings under 50% government-wide, with the last item hitting a low point of 36% (a stunning revelation given the responses in other satisfaction and morale areas). OPM classes these among the survey’s “impact’ items, the real “stay or go” determinants.

Is it naive to assert that inadequate top-down communication plays a big role in the problem? We want to hear what you think. Email us with your interpretation at government@tmp.com . We won’t use respondent’s names when we discuss what you tell us.

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy


  1. Jorge Ponce



    We are all familiar with the differences between management and leadership. While both serve an organization well, the leader brings about change more rapidly. This is because managers get their authority by being selected for their positions, while leaders gather followers through their own choice. Managers rule by policies, rules, and regulations, whereas leaders rely on their own intuition. Thus, managers approach problem solving from a perspective that relies on the way things have been done in the past, while leaders think outside the box.

    With companies competing in a global economy, it is essential that they have a cadre of employees who expand their business practices away from just the American way of doing of business. Even the Federal Government must embrace new ways of doing business with an increasingly diverse U.S. population, as the 2000 Census has shown. Leaders are best suited for these roles.

    However, in order for leaders to succeed, they have to be viewed by their followers as authentic. Some people think that this is something that one is born with, when, in reality, it is something that is given to the leader by his or her followers. Authenticity deals with what others see in you. Authentic leaders are closely grounded to their origins and core values. They know where they come from, what they stand for, and where they are going. They are proud of their countries of origin or geographic regions, while embracing the societal and business norms where they operate.

    Naturally, a true leader has to be careful not to lose his/her authenticity when presenting different faces to different people. Not an easy task, but one that is mandatory. Thus, if a leader is reared in a Christian household, he/she must be careful when addressing audiences from non-Christian backgrounds. This does not require the leader to be fraudulent; it means that the leader must be adept at showing different facets of his/her personality to different interest groups. To do otherwise would result in the leader being able to recruit followers only with whom he/she shares some common attributes.

    To show different aspects of a leaders personality is achievable because authenticity reflects the leaders inner self, not his/her talent for playacting as practiced by most politicians. Authenticity also requires leaders to have the courage to fight the conformity expected from monocultured organizations. Therefore, followers must be reassured constantly that the leader is not going to sell them to the highest bidder. They must know that the leader will be passionate about doing what is right, not what is popular or politically expedient.

    All this talk about authenticity reminds me of a traumatic experience that I encountered when I left Cuba in 1966. Upon my arrival to Washington, DC, I was concerned about my poor English-speaking skills, as they could adversely impact my ability to succeed in the American culture. Thus, I was thrilled when I met other Cubans who had come to the DC area five years earlier. While I was expecting acceptance by the Cubans, I generally encountered rejection. Most of these Cubans laughed at my thick Cuban accent, at the way I was dressed, even at my hairstyle. They did not want to mingle with other Cubans because they viewed success as complete assimilation to the American model not realizing that you could succeed by embracing both cultures.

    I ran into some of these Cubans twenty years later and was shocked by their demeanor. Now, they wanted to be more Cuban than the Cuban founding fathers. Their obsession with everything Cuban was indicative that they wanted to make up for lost time. In a very short time, the ideal prototype changed from being the American model to the Cuban model.

    Like all converts, these Cubans came across as lacking authenticity. Sadly, they did not get many people or employees to follow them. Others viewed their disregard for their roots as an inability to respect and value other diverse cultures a serious liability in todays heterogeneous marketplace and work environment.

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