Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Drain the Swamp

Ecosystems routinely convert marshes into fertile meadows. This occurs by decaying the accumulating aquatic plants and trees, aided by bacteria-rich brackish water. Windblown top soil helps with replacing the decaying stench with luxurious soil, wildflowers and softwood forests. Ecosystems do not drain swamps or build water treatment plants. Changes occur by natural processes. 

Pondering how wetlands become meadows has me thinking how the quagmire of politics in Washington could occur naturally. How could President Trump keep his promise of “draining the swamp” without taking action to get that done. What if Donald J. could function as an anti-hero who’s finale was anti-climatic? What if the key to “draining the swamp” was failed negotiations? What if he followed the lead of the “do-nothing” Congress and did nothing to drain the swamp? What if he rendered conventional “make it happen” presidential leadership irrelevant? What if we’ve elected the right guy for the job of morphing gridlocked Washington into a new political landscape teeming with vibrancy and diversity?

Congressional consensus building and policy formation have ground to a halt. The sides mistrust each other so much that they cannot compromise or find some middle ground. Their objectives appear to be diametrically opposed. Nothing the Executive Branch does has broken the deadlock. The RNC and DNC have not changed the kinds of candidates running for seats in Congress. All this compares to the brackish water in the swamp analogy.

The aquatic plants going to rot in a marsh are the contentious issues remaining unresolved in both houses of Congress: national debt, entitlement programs, immigration reform, healthcare policy, tax reforms, etc. The aquatic plants are rooted in muck that equates with the kinds of thinking in use which perpetuate the unresolvable contentiousness. In this analogy, those plants won’t start growing again, they will disintegrate in support of a new landscape. 

The fertile ground of the resulting meadow equates with a newer style of leadership that goes by many names: facilitative, consultative, participative, democratic or servant leadership. Subordinates are no longer under the leader’s authority or obligated to report up the command chain. These leaders have everyone’s back. They lead from behind and support other’s initiatives. They listen to and learn from everyone’s concerns. They facilitate solutions that span across different teams, departments or levels. These leaders take a coach approach to getting others to produce results, to enhance their capabilities and to collaborate with others. 

The burgeoning wildflowers and fast growing trees resemble the flourishing of initiative, better judgment, individual talents, collaborative creativity, unique contributions and shared commitments. Everyone is setup to succeed, made to feel like owners and treasured for their unique contributions. Imagine both houses of Congress blossoming like this.

This delightful transformation often occurs following the widespread failures of autocratic leadership and adversarial negotiations. The resulting lack of initiative and the absence of everyone’s better judgment helps to bring about the demise of the old order. It’s much like a brackish swamp caving in on itself and disintegrating under its own weight. 

The pending failures of Congressional and Presidential leadership are easy to anticipate. So much of the political landscape also fits a model of adversarial negotiations. All the stagnation then fits into the frame of failed negotiations. (I’ll explore this in several future posts) The fallout from both failures is a perfect end to the swamp and the start of the fertile meadow. 

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