Public service must be gratifying. At least that is what it is made to look like. Come to think of it – nothing beats the knowledge that one is contributing towards improving the lot of his people.
But it is also thankless — the constant trolls on Twitter for the best of intentions, sometimes turning into street protests. The pressers upon pressers by detractors to discredit your every other move, coupled with the character assassination.
Such is the nature of the job, particularly for elective office. After all this is what one signs up for when they put forward their names on the ballot paper. Like someone recently put it, this in itself is an act of courage.Embed from Getty Images
Apparently, how these positions look from the outside is not necessarily what one finds when they finally take oath of office and show up. The big question is turning this challenge into an opportunity. Here are some points worth keeping in mind by those aspiring and holding public office.
- Do not be reactive. Critics will always be there, significantly outnumbering the praise singers. Panic not, it does not make you a loser. In this social media age, the worst in human behaviour is continually exposed, conveniently hiding behind the anonymity of social media. Amongst us are characters who would not mind launching ruthless but meaningless attacks just to attract followers and amass likes. Man being gossipy by nature – is more likely to click on any negative story, factual or not, more than they would a sunny day. The trick for the public servant is to put their head down and get the work done. Do not be distracted. As a sage aptly put it “Work hard in silence; let your success be your noise“.
- Do not try too hard. The natural instinct is to always show delivery. Of course, there are other public servants you are wont to be compared to; and competitive human instinct is to always want to sit on top of the pile. There is also the ambition that gnaws at every man’s (and woman’s) heart – keeping their eye on the next rung. This does not however justify wholly focusing on amplifying every little step for the gallery. It instead unmasks raw selfishness. The trick is to focus more on outcomes than outputs; instead of staging those embarrassing photos launching electricity poles and livestock that litter Facebook.
- Do not assume that TV talk shows are everything. The universe of any given politician is wide and diverse — from the electorate to colleagues and peers, government, non-state actors, private sector players, among others. While pandering to national debates and party interests, keep an eye on the ball – the reason you have the platform in the first place. History is replete with examples of leaders whose huge national profile notwithstanding, were sent to the cleaners, since they could not be ‘felt on the ground’.
- Do not ignore the value of communication platforms that you can own and control. The 256 individuals on that WhatsApp group could start an unstoppable movement of advocates, within their circles. The difference is in how you strategically utilise these platforms.
- Do not be a one hit wonder. Be consistent in doing things and being seen to do them. It is a marathon, after all, not a sprint. Do not wait for election year to dial up the pitch for re-election. While one does not need to shout on the rooftops every other time, what they got to do very well is being consistent in delivering and being seen to deliver.
- Do not be all over the place. Choose one or two things to be well known for. Have an opinion on everything if you may, but only amplify those held dearest. That is the way to build a profile sustainably and carve a future career.