Why Bobby Jindal should embrace, not punish, dissent

Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is not comfortable with dissent.

By now, it’s apparent to everyone in the Louisiana Legislature that you don’t cross the governor if you want to keep your committee leadership position.

The most recent casualty was Republican Rep. Jim Morris of Oil City, a fiscal hawk who had the audacity to insist that Jindal keep his word about not using one-time money to deal with the state budget shortfall. Morris also opposed Jindal’s so-called education reform bills, including the voucher program.

Jindal’s hand-picked speaker, Chuck Kleckley of Lake Charles, stripped Morris of his position as vice chairman of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee. While Kleckley didn’t say the move was in retribution for Morris’ votes, the message was unmistakable.

Earlier in the recent legislative session, Kleckley pulled the vice chairmanship of the House Insurance Committee from Rep. Harold Ritchie of Bogalusa, for a different apostasy — he opposed a tax rebate for donations to organizations that provide scholarships to private schools. (Full disclosure: my former boss, Kathleen Blanco, responded to dissent by bumping a legislator from a committee chairmanship early in her term as governor.)

The clear message from Jindal and Company — you can dissent, just don’t expect remain on our team, if you do.

Strong leaders, of course, aren’t threatened by dissent. Actually, they welcome and encourage it because they recognize what it is — a great way to involve others in improving your organization.

A recent post on this topic on the blog “Leaders to Leaders” addresses the need for contrary and opposing views within organizations. One quote in particular caught my eye:

Peter Drucker commented, “Dissent, even conflict, is necessary, indeed desirable. Without dissent and conflict there is no understanding. And without understanding, there are only wrong decisions. To me the most fascinating parts of [Alfred] Sloan’s [General Motors] book [My Years With General Motors] are the memoranda in which he first elicits dissent and then synthesizes dissenting views into an understanding, and in the end, into consensus and commitment. Sloan implies that leadership is not charisma, not public relations, not showmanship. It is performance, consistent behavior, trustworthiness.”

Perhaps that’s a philosophy, if embraced at the state Capitol, might actually produce better government. And it might make Jindal a better governor.

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2 Responses to Why Bobby Jindal should embrace, not punish, dissent

  1. I agree with the blog. It’s never a good idea to create a group of high-ranking “Yes Men” within your organization. When a leader is surrounded with “Yes Men”, only the leader’s opinions and views will prevail. No matter how smart or visionary the leader may be, the leader is not perfect.

    As iron sharpens iron, healthy debate and discussion of different ideas will produce better results than unchallenged ideas. Jindal would do well to adopt that mentality.

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