Feb 282013 1 Response

How Darr You? (A Bill, a Signature, and a Reminder About Leadership)

I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. We wanted to make a point; we saw an opportunity; and it didn’t go as planned.

It can happen in parenting, marriage, and work.

This week we saw where it can happen in state government.

Last Friday, while Governor Mike Beebe attended the National Governors Association in Washington DC, Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr signed into law Senate Bill 131 which made private those who hold a Concealed Carry License in Arkansas. It’s a bill which passed with overwhelming support of the Arkansas legislature and which would have become law on Monday without the signature of Governor Beebe. However, with Beebe out of town, Darr was the acting governor and signed the bill into law on Friday.

The result of the signing is that nothing has changed, but relationships are broken. The law which is now enacted is the same law which would have been enacted. The way the law was signed was by using a provision from the state constitution which was put in place for a time where governors could not easily  be contacted or quickly return if they left the state. The provision was meant to protect us in times of emergency, not provide windows of opportunity to make a political point.

If the move was made over a controversial issue which the Governor was certain to veto and the Lieutenant Governor felt a moral obligation to risk his career for the sake of the law, using this provision might be justified. However, when the act does nothing to change law but does build deep distrust between the two leaders of our executive branch, it is not a wise act.

But I’ve been there.

I can’t speak for Lt. Gov. Darr, but I can speak for myself. I have made mistakes while trying to lead which have hurt my credibility and damaged my leadership. While I haven’t had my mistakes played out it in the state newspapers, I have dealt with the embarrassment of friends, relatives, and those I’m called to lead.

As an outsider looking in on the situation, I cannot speak authoritatively as to what mistakes Darr made. I do see a couple of red flags which are easy to spot in situations involving others, but difficult to spot in my own life.

Here are a few ways to make a bad decision:

Focus on what is your right instead of what is right. We are fascinated by what we have a right to do. We need to be more fascinated by what is the right thing to do. Just because we have a right to do something does not mean that something is the right thing to do. The constitution might give one the right to sign a bill, but it does not mean it is right to sign the bill.

Focus on technicalities instead of intent. When we focus on our right over what is right, our attention turns to the technicalities at the expense of the intent. We consider what was technically said and not what our parent, boss, pastor, or constitution intended by what was said. Intent trumps technicality. It was not the intent of the writers of the Arkansas Constitution to give the Lieutenant Governor the ability to sign a bill which the Governor had decided not to sign.

Ignore those around you. Most mistakes include either not seeking advice from wise people or ignoring the advice of wise people because we are listening to our friends (See Here). We ignore wise counsel at our own peril. We think we know better. We think we are different. We think we are doing right. Yet time proves we were wrong and they were right. We almost always have to step over wise people in order to make a mistake, yet we foolishly step over them all the time.

Act quickly. Most of the time wisdom comes slowly, but foolishness happens in a rush. One warning sign of folly is the need to act quickly. Very few good things in life have a quick deadline. Nearly every bad decision in life has the feeling of a decision which must be made quickly. Case in point—time shares. Have you ever sat through a time share presentation and the salesperson told you to think about it, seek advice, and call them the next week? Never. Why? Because generally timeshares are bad decisions and to get us to make a bad decision, the salesperson speeds up the process. Never run to the wedding chapel. Never hurry to borrow money. Never sign a bill into law with great haste. Speed kills.

Focus on saying something instead of doing something. Anytime we are trying to make a point we are in danger of making a mistake. Leadership should be about doing things more than about saying things. Government should be more about lawmaking than point-making. The biggest warning sign of the Darr situation is that his action didn’t actually do anything to change what would happen. What has happened is what would have happened. Yet had he done nothing, his relationship with the Governor would still be on solid ground, trust would be present, and the citizens wouldn’t have to worry about what might happen next. By acting, the law didn’t change, but relationships were broken, trust was destroyed, and we are left wondering.

It’s easy as an outsider looking in to see all the red flags which should have prevented a bad decision last Friday, but seeing red flags is not nearly as easy within our own lives. As I’ve written before, I have a high view of most politicians and believe they are doing what is right. I assume Lt. Gov. Darr is a good man who simply made a mistake. I hope he recognizes it, reconciles with the Governor, and has a good career.

More importantly, I hope I learn from it. The mistakes made in this situation are easily repeatable by anyone who leads. Maybe today’s headlines can prevent tomorrow’s disaster.

So, as we lead, we should:

Focus on what is right, not just on what is your right.

Focus on the intent of what was said, not just the technical words.

Listen to those around you.

Move slowly.

Focus on doing something, not just saying something. 


For More About Leadership:

Who Wants To Be A Leader

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