While I’m not a picky eater, I have never been fond of sausage. I attribute that to the fact that I’m a farm girl . . . and probably know just a little too much about what goes into sausage. Apparently, I’m not the only one.
I’ve often heard the legislative process compared to sausage-making, and I would put state-wide or national “systems change” in the same category. In each case, there are lots of different parts involved, and it’s not a pretty process, so it seems an apt comparison. Given that, why would a leader — who presumably has more than enough balls in the air inside their organization — go looking for other messy, time-consuming processes to insert themselves into outside their organization? No, insanity is not the word I was looking for here. Mission impact is.
Large-scale systemic change has the potential to impact far more lives than individual organizational actions, but it is not a task for the faint of heart. It takes the conviction to stand strong on principles, but be flexible on details . . .The patience to listen to divergent points of view and find common ground on which to build . . . The perseverance to invest the time and energy to wade through the sludge to get to a palatable product on the other side. And that can be a high price to pay when leaders are more often measured on their short-term outcomes than their long-term impact. (Okay, so maybe insanity is the right word.)
And yet, as I write this blog on an election day, the sentiment of “if you don’t participate in the system, you don’t have the right to criticize it” comes to mind. Is someone really a leader if he or she continuously points out the flaws in a system, and yet does nothing to try to impact change within that system? Don’t those who turn to us for care deserve to have us dream big dreams on their behalf, even if it means we have to put up with a bit of pain and suffering in the process? Think about it. If we aren’t around the table, how do we know that someone else will protect our mission on our behalf?
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I think sometimes leadership comes down to doing what your gut keeps telling you to do, even when you really don’t want to do it. Because the bottom line is, it’s not about you. It’s about the mission.
So for those leaders who like to move at a fast pace, who perhaps lack patience, and like to be in control . . . maybe the best way to make a lasting difference is to take a deep breath, and acquire a taste for sausage.