When I’m not watching CSPAN or CNN on TV, it is a guilty pleasure of mine to watch reality TV – specifically, shows on Bravo and E! The other night while watching an episode of one of my favorites, something a cast member said during a drama-filled reunion special caught my attention. Given the nature of the show I was watching, what the reality star said was by no means a ground-breaking thought or moment of genius. Yet, it was simple and true: “There’s a difference between a boss and a leader.”
Good leadership is what makes a group successful through encouragement and positive inspiration that works to motivate. On the other hand, a boss is usually associated with a negative working environment, one where employees resent authority, which largely results in mediocre performance and high-turnover. This concept surely applies to Congress these days.
With Congress back in session, much conversation with my friends on the Hill has focused on the transitioning of the newly elect House GOP Leadership currently
taking place. Not surprisingly, the leaders’ first actions and decisions have received high levels of scrutiny. According to political pundits, even the smallest of actions by Congress are foretelling of the future of the GOP under their new leadership. At the same time, they take this opportunity to criticize the previous GOP Leadership, by highlighting recent failures such as the government shutdown and its major blow to the Party’s image. A comment Speaker Boehner made on the shutdown brings to question whether he was a boss or leader:
“I told my colleagues in July I didn’t think shutting
down the government over Obamacare would work…
But when you have my job, there’s something you have
to learn. You learn that a leader without followers is
simply a man taking a walk. So I said, do you want to
fight this fight? I’ll go fight the fight with you… but it
was a very predictable disaster.”
– John Boehner, The Tonight Show, 1/23/14
Taking this into account, I contemplate whether it was a good decision as a leader to let the Tea Party take control of the budget negotiations. Why would he let the minority steer the majority of the party in an irrational crusade against Obamacare? Especially if he knew it wouldn’t work. One could say that was a bad decision and an example of Boehner not being enough of a boss. On the other hand, Boehner strengthened his hand and support within the GOP Conference by allowing the Tea Party faction to drive the House GOP strategy – which increased his authoritative capacity and made a challenge to his speakership unlikely. Even so, while this may have helped the perception of Boehner’s role as a leader, I believe that his decision to adopt a self-destructing tactic was example of him being a boss rather than leader. Then again, had he not, he may have faced the same fate as then (and now) former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The fact Speaker Boehner was able to survive amongst a split party contributes to the argument that he is a good Leader capable of uniting the fractious groups.
Looking towards the future of the GOP leadership, I certainly think the Republicans have learned from their mistake. Congress will have to act fairly soon to approve a new spending measure to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month. Rather than put up a fight, the House Leadership is pushing party members to support the continuing resolution (CR) agreement. The GOP Leadership will truly be put to the test when issues such as the Export-Import Bank and immigration are up for debate. In the meantime the GOP will avoid controversy leading up to the midterm elections, which is certainly a good call by the House GOP Leadership team.
The views in this blog post represent the viewpoints of individual team members, not Capstone National Partners as a whole.