Star Spangled Leadership
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” We make the difference. Whether it’s our workplaces, churches, schools or communities, you and I are the determining factors about the goodness of this place we call home. The same can be said for us as a nation. So what are you doing to make this a good place for all of us? Isn’t that truly what being patriotic is all about?
In this election year, as a leader you may have to wrestle with what is acceptable in regards to politics in your organization. Patriotism and politics are synonymous in the vocabulary of some, while diametrically opposed terms for others! Some things you might need to consider:
- Civil discussions It is a reasonable expectation to ask the members of your team to be reasonable with each other! Lively discussions are bound to happen with politics, elections and various issues that come up. Respectful dialogue should always be encouraged, but hateful rhetoric, personal attacks and other inappropriate behavior should never be acceptable.
- Computer time Social media is a time devouring monster. Add politics to that mix, and it becomes a monster on steroids! Challenge your team to guard their time on the computer, and reserve social media and other political web surfing time for after work.
- Displays Your organization may already have policies that either allow or disallow political displays (posters, banners, buttons or computer wallpaper) in the workplace. Lead from the front on the issue, and if your organization doesn’t have policies here, then help establish some. It’s much easier to establish and enforce a policy than it is to mediate an out of control competition within your workplace.
- Time off Staff may ask for time away from the office to attend rallies, volunteer for their favorite causes or candidates or otherwise actively show their patriotism. Make sure they are clear on how that time away will be requested, classified and recorded.
Another critical issue that reflects your organization's view on patriotism is this: How important, if at all, is it for you to bring veterans onto your team? These veterans are men and women who took on much risk and gave up a portion of their lives to serve as a protecting force for our country and our people. In addition to the entitlements given via the Veterans Employment Initiative, they deserve our respect, our consideration and our gratitude. But why should we give them a high consideration when it comes to bringing them on to our team? Here are a few things to ponder:
- Veterans tend to have a great work ethic. Part of their training means getting the job done, no matter the cost. Being a part of the military shows them that every member of the organization matters (i.e., “leave no man behind”), and that it takes the best effort from everyone to accomplish the mission.
- Veterans typically have a higher level of maturity, one found in people who have faced the “life and death” challenges military life brings. While it is true that you can teach most tasks, it is a much more difficult challenge if you have immature team members. Wisdom, thoughtfulness, prudence and courage are character traits we have typically found that were either instilled or greatly nourished and expanded in team members with a military background.
- Veterans are likely already trained in some instances for what you might need. The military knows that it is critical to train soldiers in teamwork, in decision making skills and in good preparation and follow through. Beyond that, they may have already provided a potential team member with technical, organizational or people skills crucial for the success of your organization.
- Your organization could receive thousands of dollars in tax credits for hiring vets. These tax credits vary in amounts, and will be based on a variety of factors. But if you’re going to be hiring quality employees anyway, why not let the IRS give you an additional tax credit for doing it?
Finally, ask yourself this simple question… does Patriotism have a place in our organization? If so, then what does that look like? It might look like:
- Simple things like patriotic art in the office or attending veterans' events. Your organization is going to have art on the walls; why not have some that reflects pride in our country or military? Encourage your team members to help with this. Beyond that, show your physical support by attending local veterans' or Memorial Day events.
- Celebration of Memorial Day, Independence Day & Election Day. Obviously two of these dates are national holidays, so your staff will most likely not be at work. Why not have a celebratory lunch before these dates, or take some of your team members with you to a local veterans' hospital on or near these holidays to spend some time visiting with and honoring veterans? When election time rolls around, make sure your staff have plenty of time to go vote, even if it means arriving late or leaving early on that day.
- Financial support of groups like Folds of Honor, Wounded Warrior Project and more are great ways to show patriotism. Write financial gifts for worthy groups like these into your annual budget, and then challenge your staff to “match” gifts they will make up to a certain amount. (We recommend Charity Navigator to research charitable projects.)
- Finally, individual recognition of your employees who are veterans is a noble and worthy way to show a very personal display of patriotism. Recognize them with a gift certificate to dinner, or tickets to their favorite concert. Let them know their time and their sacrifices did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Especially in this crazy and somewhat confrontational election cycle we find ourselves in, it’s easy to just write off anything political or otherwise deemed “political." I encourage you to do just the opposite! Jump out there and actively show your love for this country by making it “good” anyway you can! Support those who have defended it, and honor those who have paid the ultimate price.
Teddy Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Editor's Note: At Lead Change, we recognize that Memorial Day and Veterans Day are distinctly different days. In sharing this post, we intend to acknowledge a deep respect for all military, and trust that you, our readers, will understand our intent.