I’m a Midwest boy from Northern Illinois. One of the biggest shames of my state is the following:
- Of Illinois’ last seven governors, four have ended up going to prison. They are:
- Rod Blagojevich — Governor from 2002 through 2009, when he became the first Illinois governor in history to be impeached. He was convicted of numerous corruption charges in 2011, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.
- George Ryan — Governor from 1999 through 2003. After leaving office, he was convicted of racketeering for actions as governor and secretary of state. In November 2007, he began serving a 6 1/2 year sentence in federal prison.
- Dan Walker — Governor from 1973-1977. He pleaded guilty to bank fraud and other charges in 1987 related to his business activities after leaving office. He spent about a year and a half in federal prison.
- Otto Kerner — Governor from 1961-1968. He resigned to become judge, and then was convicted of bribery related to his tenure as governor. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that sad? Clearly, these gentlemen had no trouble making decisions—they were decisive. But were their decisions in the best interest of their constituency, or were they divisive? Did they cause discord and disrupt the good work of government?
Let’s look at Blagojevich. He received 1,847,040 votes to win the governorship. Almost 2 million people put their trust in this man to lead their state. My state. He was supposed to be a leader and what did he do to show his leadership?
I was in Illinois last week talking to one of my friends, who is also a state representative. The Illinois governor today is Bruce Rauner. I’ve never heard of him. When I went to Wikipedia, which I know is always correct, it said that he is a 58-year-old guy with six kids who went to Dartmouth and Harvard. He never held any public office.
He had a ton of money and decided he would run for governor. It further said he was an American businessman, philanthropist and politician. Prior to his election, he was the chairman of R8 Capital Partners and chairman of the private equity firm GTCR, based in Chicago. He was the Republican nominee in the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial election and defeated Democratic incumbent Governor Pat Quinn.
He reminded me of me—except for the money part. About 25 years ago I ran for city council in Rockford, Ill. I was idealistic but had no political background.
Anyway, I asked my friend, the state rep, what he thought about Rauner. He told me a story about how the governor had recently called his office and just told the call taker that “Bruce” was calling. Not “Bruce—the Governor.” I like his style.
I asked my friend what he admired most about the governor. He said, “His decisiveness.” I thought that was interesting because most past Illinois governors are known for their “divisiveness.”
This is sad. Actually, it is horrid. I grew up believing that governors should be trustworthy.
Actually, this is a huge lesson for leaders. As a leader someone needs to be trustworthy. Their employees must believe in them. They must trust them. They must view them as a true leader.
It they don’t, they will quit.
A leader in a company is not that much different than a leader in a state. We may not look at ourselves that way—but our people do. Right or wrong—they want someone who will lead. Someone they can count on. Someone who will guide them to a better future than what they have today.
Again, I don’t know Bruce. I hope he gets my home state back in shape. I don’t know if he can do this, but it seems he is on the right track.
Our leadership lesson this week—are we on the right track and do your people view as decisive or divisive? You may think you know the answer—but the real answer comes from those people who you lead.
It is all about trust—and making sure you are the person you say you are. Have a great week.