To Change Government's Culture, Recruit Leaders, Not Loners

November 13, 2011

Garrison Keillor, host of "A Prairie Home Companion" radio program, connects with his audience when he visits Washington. Among his roles on the show is the unofficial father confessor for the National Association of Shy Persons, whose members teem in the federal government. 

Government is not simply a magnet for shy people. Government, in particular, attracts, rewards and promotes people who want to be left alone. As a result, we have a government of loners. These include many expert, diligent employees. Managers who feel the need to navigate around the agendas of political appointees use the culture of being left alone as cover. Unfortunately, a government of loners also harbors bad managers, the people who no one can figure out how they got or keep their jobs but they skillfully deflect scrutiny.

The risks created by a government of loners are primarily seen in the scarcity of people with a healthy balance of substantive and social skills who are needed for leadership, management and bringing projects large and small to completion.

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