How Self-Serving Leadership is Keeping Millennials Away from Washington

Are Millennials changing leadership in the government?We’ve all come across a self-serving leader at one point in our professional careers. They are the type of leader who is motivated by self-interest and adopts the “give a little, take a lot” mindset. Self-serving leaders make their own agenda, status, and gratification more of a priority than those affected by their thoughts and actions. Harvard’s Institute of Politics study, “Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service,” proves that Millennials have zero tolerance for this type of leader. The study reveals that 59% of this booming generation feels that “elected officials” seem to be motivated by selfish reasons.

Another discouraging fact that government leaders are currently in the trenches of is the quick and steady decline of trust levels amongst current public sector employees and potential future leaders. Only 22% of Millennials trust the Federal Government to do the right thing. That percentage declines even more to 18% when it comes to trust levels with Congress. Trust, morals, values all encompass doing the right thing, not just for yourself but for society. I recently had a conversation with a colleague about the moral compass of the world today and the deteriorating values that are becoming the new normal. If you were one of the unlucky few that watched Miley Cyrus’ performance on the MTV Video Music Awards, you have an idea of what I am referring to. Our conversation focused on behavior that was once considered shocking is now common behavior, devoid of any reflection of the consequences that may occur. No longer should we lead by example and as the target group of this survey has solidified by the findings of the study, they are well aware of this fact and are taking matters into their own hands.

  • 56 percent of Millennials agree that “elected officials don’t have the same priorities I have”
  • 48 percent agree that “politics has become too partisan”
  • 28 percent agree that “political involvement rarely has any tangible results”

Ron Fournier, author of the article, The Outsiders: How Can Millennials Change Washington If They Hate It?, took to several schools in Washington and Boston to uncover the truths behind what the Harvard IOP study unveiled. The students Ron interviewed seemed to have a general consensus of their outlook of the future if our government continues as it has been and it is pretty much aligned with Harvard’s survey results. A particular response that Fournier received to one of the questions asked at Langley High School in Washington was particularly unsettling. When Ron asked these students how many of them will pursue a career in politics or government, a student replied, “Is this a joke?” That same student commented, “The thing about social institutions is when you destroy them, they get rebuilt eventually, in a different form for a different time.”

If Millennials are set on “destroying” current social institutions so they can rebuild them to be more functional, who are the leaders that are guiding them down this path? Amongst the plethora of self-serving leaders that are shaping this generation’s perspective of our imminent future, where are the servant leaders that are providing balanced and positive examples and guidelines of how these individuals can change the world? We need these leaders. We need great leaders that serve our country rather than serve themselves.

Ken Blanchard wrote a book with Mark Miller, vice president of training and development for Chick-fil-A about how great leaders serve. In the book, the word serve is an acronym that outlines the traits that distinguish self-serving leaders from great leaders. The acronym stands for; S = See the Future, E = Engage and Develop People, R = Reinvent Continuously, V = Value Results and Relationships, and E = Embody the Values. The SERVE acronym is definitely not an easy thing to live up to on a daily basis. Yet, it seems as though the Millennials are on to something here.

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  1. #1 by Randy Conley on August 28, 2013 - 7:53 am

    Great article Kristina. I have high hopes for the Millennial generation that as they move into higher positions of leadership they will help re-orient our culture to more ethical and trustworthy ways of leading. As a society we seem to have become content with expecting LESS from our leaders rather than MORE. Previous generations had the expectation that people in leadership needed to display higher than normal ethics, values, and character. Today we have bought into the lie that how a person lives their life outside their official leadership position doesn’t matter. Leadership starts on the inside. It’s about your core values and character, not about charisma, polish, or slick political maneuvering.

    Randy

  2. #2 by daveca on August 28, 2013 - 10:57 am

    Kristina.
    I liked the article. In your spare time you might want to read “Freedom, Inc.” by Carney

  3. #3 by Isabella Bernhard on March 10, 2015 - 9:06 am

    Another discouraging fact that government leaders are currently in the trenches of is the quick and steady decline of trust levels amongst current public sector employees and potential future leaders.Hence the call for an example to be made of him lest other non corporate hippie types get fancy ideas of upsetting the stockmarket citadel. singapore accounting software

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