Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Leadership is just another word for...

Yes. As in yes men.

One of the things you see in organizations is the habit of naming certain people as part of the LEADERSHIP. They LOVE the L word. They love to hear themselves say it.

They emphasize to everyone that THEY are the designated leadership team. That gives them privilege, they get to sit in on meetings and are privy to additional layers of company secrets that the underlings are not. They also get to escape accountability as a perk. They get to blame other people for failure, but leaders stay clean. 

The moment anyone DOES try to hold them accountable though, they hide behind the other big L: Lawyers.

Leadership has become simply another word for yes man.

What we needed in the face of the Ebola problem, as in so many other events, was a leader. Solid decisive action. We did not get that. We got buddies of the President appointed out of political favor instead.

You won't hear me criticize Obama very often. I don't usually mind when people do, though, because I don't mind other people having opinions that differ from my own, and I don't need to be right.

As long as it's not some troll spewing mindless racist hate or parroting abject stupidity, I just let it be. I have my own political views and I'm not afraid to say I tend to lean very much toward the left most of the time. But I also think it's important to remember that we are talking about public health and safety, and Ebola doesn't care if you're a Republican, Democrat, or Purple. Nurses don't refuse to take a patient based on their political affiliation. We're all human beings and we're all affected by this.

That said, I am very disappointed in Obama for this appointment of a so-called "Ebola Czar." This guy has no health care or public health experience whatsoever. He's an attorney and works with big business, and therefore has no clue about the things that frontline health care workers do or deem important.

We have a problem in this country and it's lack of true leadership. True leadership is not the fake kind taught at Harvard Business School. Look at the people in Congress, for example. They won't even act on minor issues because it's midterm election season. Where are their priorities? They certainly are not with the people of this country. They prioritize their own reelection so they can continue to prey on the well-funded palms that feed them, the ones who got their money by preying on the public.

We need to string them up by the part of their anatomy that is most sensitive to pain and say, you need to act. Quit protecting your own turf and do what we're paying you to do. Remember we are still paying them, in terms of benefits like health care and retirement, and it's out of our taxes, which we pay disproportionately more of than their rich buddies. The perks from lobbyists and guarantees of golden parachutes are much more lucrative, and as long as they keep it so, the people are screwed.

Career politicians are not leaders, just like the so-called leaders of corporations. Self-interest. Greed. Power. Those are the things that motivate these people. As long as they are safe, comfortable, and profitable, they won't do a damn thing to change.

This is what happens in corporations. I can remember working in the hospital and there would be these "leadership" meetings that always consisted of roughly half the unit staff, while the other half stayed and worked. All of the so-called leaders were in their positions due to length of time they'd been there or the fact that they were the biggest kissasses, and/or the most toxic people on the unit.

This is an aside, but I couldn't help thinking, when I saw what happened to Nina Pham, the first U.S. nurse diagnosed with Ebola in Texas, that she must have somehow drawn the short straw on assignments that day. Or maybe she volunteered for the challenge. I can remember the nasty charge nurse I had to deal with in ICU who would always give me the most distasteful assignments that she'd never give to her buddies. When I was a new nurse, I used to ask for more challenging assignments, but what usually happened was I got the patients no one else wanted. Had Ebola come to the unit I worked in, I probably would have been the one given the Ebola patient without adequate protection.

Who knows what they discussed in those meetings, I was never invited. I was one of those dangerous people who questioned things and might actually think for myself. I stayed and took care of patients while they "led" in the conference room. They never communicated to the rest of us what was discussed in those meetings. Occasionally we'd ask them to, and they'd pretend they would do it, but they never actually got around to it.

There were always a lot of leaders relative to the non-leaders. It was more of a secret club than anything. You'd have to somehow demonstrate your loyalty to the system before you could be granted admission. And just how you did that, was never made clear. There was never a book of rules, or a playbook that was shared with everyone. That's how you keep the underlings in line. People who want to do things and take action are not the ones who are valued in these organizations. It is the sheep who stay, are promoted, and kept.

Do a shitty job, keep your clique in place, and get rid of anyone who thinks critically or has ideas? Get promoted to an executive position, created just for you.

Take action on a patient safety issue? You're fired. We don't want the world to know that we really don't value patient safety, that it interferes with the bottom line.

Business schools and law schools don't produce leaders. Actually most schools don't. They provide didactic knowledge, but it's not applied to any real world situation very well, if at all. Experience and demonstrated decisive action do. That's one reason why we've always valued military service when people ran for president.

I am not sure that the military is any better of an organization but it certainly does provide opportunities to demonstrate leadership. With all the changes in the military I am not sure that it provides what it used to. But I do know that in my health care experience, I have seen the establishment frat boy culture completely diss a newcomer with military experience and common sense, when they could have learned and gained from his ideas.

The frat club of business school-educated "leaders" knows how to work the system to eliminate any common sense or true efficiency from the system. They pretend to implement systemic changes which really only serve their bottom line, and usually result in inefficiencies for the people who do the real front line work.

Some have called for an office of a National Nurse, another ball that has been dropped in our pathetic Congress. If there had been a national nurse (not to mention a Surgeon General and adequate funding) in place prior to the Ebola incident, perhaps we could have avoided this mess.

What's it gonna take? Well first, we have a midterm election coming up. You can start by voting for people who have demonstrated competent leadership. A newcomer, preferably, not an incumbent. We can make sure that anyone running for President who gets as far as the primary is thoroughly examined by the public to look for true leadership ability and experience, not a career politician.

And we need to insist, like National Nurses United has demonstrated so well, on our voices being heard, our recommendations being implemented and taken seriously, and not backing down to the fear tactics currently used in the corporate playbook that result in voices acting in the public's best interest being threatened and squelched.

The one nurse from Texas who blew the whistle and went to the media? She is a hero. She is risking her livelihood but she is protecting the public, and that's more important. She will find work, perhaps not in a corporate health care system, but someplace where she can do meaningful work.

We have got to stop allowing these business school educated, incompetent people to run our health system. We need people who know the health care landscape, who have experience, boots on the ground, and know how to take action in a crisis.

You wouldn't allow the CEO to run a code, would you? Why should they run the hospital at all?

Health care and public health are not a business. Stop running it like one.


Dave Heckman said...

I wandered around your blog, Alene, after getting to it from FB and really enjoy your writing and what you have to say is right on. I can relate to so much of what you have to say. I am closing my FB thing because I am a loner and don't socialize much and when I do it is in person or email which I like better because it is more personal. Nothing against FB, but I can't do it. Off the subject, but that is why I have to close my FB. But I hope to read more from you and to send you a mail some time. Also, when this Ebola thing started I knew "they" were going to eff it up and thought Obama, even though I gave him my vote, should be impeached for it. My heart goes out to those on the front lines saving lives and offering a comforting hand to those facing a painful death. They are the heroes.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Thanks Dave for reading and commenting...I hope you'll come back here often and explore the blog, you'll probably enjoy my rants. I have your email and will be in touch. Yes FB sucks because people are so fake on it. I don't think people without health care experience should have anything to do with running health care or public health. They just don't get it.