Last week I wrote about the direct relationship between expectations and feedback in human systems. Nature uses feedback to evolve, but in human systems, feedback is triggered by not meeting expectations. This causes us to deflect feedback, or hinder it. 

As we approach midterm elections in the United States, it seems like a good time to reflect on my own expectations of our political leaders. After all, voting is a form of feedback. Here is the list of my expectations of people who we elect to public office in a democracy.

Expectations of elected officials

  • Model good citizenship behaviors
  • Honesty
  • Defend democracy
  • Uphold and hold sacred their Oath of Office
  • Don’t obfuscate what is happening.
  • Have the courage to name the problem we are trying to solve.
  • Focus on what helps the most people in our society.
  • Align behaviors with what you say.
  • Measure your effectiveness by the impact of your actions and policies over time.
  • Have a long-term view.
  • Let go of self-interested behavior.

Noticing the gap is the first step

As I reread this list of my expectations of elected officials, I am reflecting on how large the gap is between what I expect and what I actually see in our national politicians. When did we learn to tolerate lying, dishonesty, and self-serving behavior as the norm? 

In an interdependent world, solving problems starts with these questions: “How am I contributing to the problem I seek to solve?” and “What do I need to change in my way of thinking, acting, or being to help solve the problem?” One answer is for me to vote based on my expectations of elected leaders (rather than on what currently passes as normal in our political arena). I am choosing to raise my expectations, not lower them.

Luckily our local and state races have more people in them that come closer to my list. I believe this is because locally elected officials walk the streets of our neighborhood and interact with members of our communities. They get feedback whether they want it or not and that information helps them become better. 

Don’t give up on the quality you want to see in elected officials

It can be easy to give up on our expectations when we see examples of the opposite behavior all around us. This is our part of the problem. We need to continue to give feedback, whether it is voting or calling our elected officials to let them know what we think of their behaviors and policies. 

When I consult in organizations, I find pockets of dysfunction as well as pockets of excellence in teams. The one difference between them is that dysfunctional teams have learned to stop or dampen down feedback. Therefore, they don’t learn and evolve. This results in a team that it is painful and frustrating to be on. We can choose an alternative path. We can give feedback even if we think it won’t be heard and we can’t create change. If we can’t create the change that we wish to see, we can choose to remove ourselves from the team.