9 Nov 2009

The leaders we deserve?


There's a saying in the UK (and probably elsewhere) that people usually get the leaders they deserve. The point is that leaders are a product of the society they serve: they come from that society and, even in only partially effective democracies, take power with some form of society's consent. So if a society places a high value on integrity and public service, then so will it's leaders. And if a society is all about fighting for personal gain, its leaders will be in it for themselves.

I don't entirely agree with this idea, but I think it can still give us some useful insights.

This may not seem immediately relevant, but I saw today a person trying (struggling) to get information on how to register their mobile phone line. The assistant answering their questions was being very unhelpful giving incomplete and confusing answers. It would have been very quick and easy for the assistant to give the customer all the information they needed, but for whatever reason they had decided to be unhelpful.

I expected the customer would get angry, or at least ask for clearer answers, but no. They just left, clearly unsatisfied and without having learnt what steps they needed to take to register their phone.

If we're willing to accept such unhelpful customer service, do you think the service will ever improve? If we have such low expectations of the standard of service we will receive, those expectations will be fulfilled.

This example came from the private sector, but the parallels with government and public services are clear. If a society expects and accepts poor services and poor leadership, then that's what it will get.