One thing that's always fascinated me about the art of leadership and management is the intersection of personal beliefs and getting things done in an organization. Those personal beliefs span a wide range of topics, but for me, the most interesting and polarizing points of view are political in nature.
Your CEO could be a ultra-conservative or a screaming liberal (although polling data says the former is much more likely than the latter). Your day to day manager could be a republican or a democrat.
Is it easier for a an executive or a day to day manager of people to be polarized in their political beliefs? I'd say it's much easier for an executive. Let me give you a quote and then let's explore:
"It's Not About French Fries, It's About Freedom"
More from KMRG in Texas:
"The top official in the Texas Department of Agriculture says yes, deep fat fryers should return to Texas school districts. (Source: TexasTribune.com)
Commissioner Sid Miller says “it isn't about french fries, it's about freedom.”
Miller wants to see a state policy banning deep fat fryers and soda machines from schools repealed."
And in case you were wondering whether the guy was on one side of the political fringe, the cupcakes need protection:
"Miller also wants schools to be allowed more days (six instead of one per week) to sell cupcakes and other high-fat, high-sugar foods during the school day.
To make his point about local control, Millers’s first official act as commissioner was to grant “full amnesty to cupcakes.” “This is not about force-feeding cupcakes to our children,”Miller said. “It is about local control.”
Miller’s critics say the restrictions on fatty, sugar-laden foods came in response to an increase in child obesity in Texas, and repealing them is a step backward."
In the time of Fox News and MSNBC, it's easy to feel radical on one side of the political house or another. And at times we bring our personal beliefs to work.
But you better watch out as a day to day manager of people. You can't afford to make stupid statements or decisions that are based on any way on your personal political beliefs. Weave out of the swim lane occupied by normal people - the type of people who believe that french fries should probably be managed out of the diets of anyone who really doesn't know better - and you'll start to get some crooked eyebrows from the people who have to trust you with their careers.
Moderates - on either side of the political spectrum - make the best managers. They understand that the art of managing a team is a sea of gray and you have to look at things on case by case basis.
The corporate HR version of the french fries quote? "We're an at-will employment company." Meaning we have the freedom to fire anyone from the company we want to for any reason at any time.
Of course, executives can make those calls in big companies with the power of severance packages behind them. The line manager? Probably not going to buy the risk out with a nice severance. So when they fire someone, it's America - and anyone can come back with a legal charge about that employment decision.
It's not about french fries. It's about freedom.
It's not about employment law or risk. It's about our at-will provision of our handbook.
When you see an executive make an outlandish statement, take comfort in the fact that he or she is shielded from reality.
When you see your manager make that type of statement, find a transfer or a new opportunity, because he's probably going down at some point. You don''t need the splatter on your career.