The End of the World As We Know It: Leadership and the Zombie Apocalypse

3 Dec

By Gayla Schaefer

I am a firm believer in the power of mind over matter. If you believe it, you can achieve it. The more people focused on a goal, the more likely it is to come to pass.

People call this many different things: organizational vision, collective thought, even prayer circles. Simply put, the more people who concentrate on and believe in an outcome, the stronger the chances are that the desired vision will be achieved.

The More People Focused on Doomsday Then…

My best friend recently told me how her 13 year old son had explained to her about the fallacies surrounding this Apocalyptic fear of December 21, 2012. While I am sure Bill Nye the Science Guy, like myself, is thrilled to hear American youth are doing their research, I am not sure the focus on the Mayan prophecy should be completely ignored — simply because so many people worldwide have concentrated at least some of their thoughts on this one day as a time of great change – for the worse or the better.

While I am not interested in advancing or discounting any of the theories out there about this date (although I am personally hoping that the grand world consciousness raising folks are right), I do think it is worth a leadership note to plug Rahm Emanuel‘s idea that leaders should “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Redefining the End of the World

In MPA Leadership classes, students learn about the importance of organizational histories, culture, and myths. Think of it like the employees of a small business turned big who draw inspiration from entrenched, well-marketed stories about the company founder who started on a shoestring and a dream. In the field of public organization studies, similarities can be drawn about agencies that have more success in reaching goals and retaining good employees because the organization’s mission is clearly and compellingly stated.

Now think about our government in general and the all too frequent use of deadline days and self-created crises like the so-called Fiscal Cliff. Our leaders have grown all too accustomed to functioning under Doomsday threats – be they economic, military, or otherwise. This is not a good leadership strategy to say the least.

Taking into account the underground, albeit fact-free, angst about that Mayan calendar mixed with the obviously right-minded fears about massive weather events tied to climate change, and add in all of this talk of Fiscal Cliff doomsday scenarios for the economic well-being of the nation and its citizens and what do you get? I would venture to call it a mess of competing fears and anxiety that in no way helps to shape a better future for our children.

Good leaders might consider: 1) ending these self-inflicted deadline or doom dates henceforth; and 2) capitalizing on these real or imagined confluence of crises to re-frame the concept of modern public organization leadership toward one that once again heralds a time of great American service instead of impending doom. It’s just a thought.

Americans Believe and are Empowered by our History as Survivors, Underdogs, and Quiet Heroes

Perhaps for example, in no way referencing the much debunked Mayan dates but instead referring to inspiring, if not always completely accurate, cherished American cultural stories about the Greatest Generation and the Great Depression sense of community, patriotic and personal values used to overcome enormous obstacles to accomplish great things, today’s leaders might offer December 21, 2012 as a date for reigniting the true American spirit of survival. A rousing message is needed from leaders with a call to public service – be it volunteering in a leadership capacity with a worthy nonprofit or committing to a career of government service in the political, government service, or military realms – to remind Americans that in order to be great, we must work toward common goals. Positive forward-looking goals are the key, not just reactionary responses to the crisis of the day.

If “We the People” were re-inspired to love our country through service and personal commitment, it would indeed be the “end of the world as we know it.” If we could focus American thoughts and energy on building the future country we all desire, one that provides equal opportunity from a strong shared foundation of world-class public education, economic development, and security, we could change our world. Well, at least we would have a much better shot at it.

Leaders must remind citizens that it is not enough to sport a bumper sticker that says you “Support Our Troops” or will “Never Forget 9/11,” if it does not translate into support for the very things the troops fight for and first responders die for: the notion that we share this community/country and all Americans are worth protecting. The American Dream of building a “more perfect union” must again become part of every citizen’s personal value system for daily life.

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Humbled @LeaderVoices Yearning to Breathe Free

No more can our leaders encourage the Zombie Apocalypse of citizen in-action by failing to provide the leadership needed to create a functioning government system where bills once again become laws, children dream of growing up to be Mayor, and communities work together to build things – not just to re-assemble the crumbling pieces left by disasters that in many cases could have been avoided. —Although kudos certainly are in order to the CDC for tackling just such a problem – with excellent Zombie humor!

Our modern cultural mythology – where Americans are too busy “bowling alone” after working two shifts to scrape by while Congress endlessly debates but never acts – must change to get our house, our government, our “organization” back in order.

It is time for the coaches and pageant parents to stop screaming at one another in front of the kids who want to play the game and need good role models. Government and elected leaders set the tone for our national consciousness. It is time they reclaim their role as citizen leaders who can inspire the next generation to greatness.

Americans are a Team. Surviving – and Thriving – Requires an Organizational Team Effort.

It is time for public service succession planning.

It is time for public service motivation.

It is time for renewed focus on shared mission.

It is time for new leaders.

A new breed of leader who can re-frame the national community ethic of service leadership by refocusing our collective minds on our strengths rather than our impending doom is needed if we are ever to finally see the much-dreaded end of the world, the hoped for dawn of a new age, or that “more perfect union” we all so desperately want to witness in our lifetimes.

One Response to “The End of the World As We Know It: Leadership and the Zombie Apocalypse”

  1. hjfoley March 24, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Reblogged this on misebogland.

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