Leadership Lessons Learned from the Health Care Debate

 This blog is not about the “health care reform” debate currently banging against the walls in Washington, but rather, from a personal and business leadership perspective, what can be learned from the debate. One thing that won’t be learned by tuning in to the congressional cacophony is how to provide and pay for effective health care for all Americans. (I do have the answers for that, but I am keeping them secret!)

The health care reform debate is a microcosm of the battles that often take place between those trying to get things done (entrepreneurs) and those trying to maintain the status quo (bureaucrats). Unfortunately, as in most of these battles, the bureaucracy is winning. Not because the bureaucracy is on the right side, but because those proposing change often allow the bureaucrats to define the debate.

In doing so, those opposed to healthcare for all Americans have successfully centered the debate on what they call “health care reform.” The reality is that the debate is not about reform at all.

“Reform” is what you do to change an existing system. When there are over 46 million Americans who do not have any type of healthcare coverage, you do not have an existing system of national health care. There is nothing to reform, because there is no system.

When the opponents (bureaucrats) of an initiative – in this case national health care – are allowed to focus the discussion on “reform,” then the debate becomes defused with extraneous options that deflect attention from the real issue.

That’s why successful leaders learn to stay focused on the most important issue they seek to solve or achieve. They ignore the details and distractions of those opposed to the effort unless and until there is agreement on the main issues, the big picture. Whenever you allow the bureaucrats to get you dealing with issues that are only tangential to the real issue, you will always lose the battle.

The struggle over health care should not be focused on “reform,” but about “rights.” The complexion of the entire debate would change if the proponents of national health care had made the issue a “health care rights” debate. Opponents would have been put on the defensive and forced to debate the crucial question of:  Do all Americans have the right to receive healthcare?

  • Americans have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
  • Americans have the right of free speech.
  • Americans have the right to a basic education.
  • Americans have the right to adequate defense in criminal matters.
  • Americans have the right to privacy.

If the debate had been focused on the proper issue — whether or not Americans have the right to healthcare – the debate would be entirely different. If it had been, what politician (bureaucrat) would stand up and proclaim that only “certain” Americans have a right to healthcare?

The irony is that America – the land of individual rights – is the only country of the 30 largest industrial nations in the world that does not view health care as a right of all its citizens. That is what the debate should be about!

If Americans decide that health care for all individuals in the society is not a right and that only those who can afford to pay for it should have it, then case closed. No need to waste further hot air.

However, unless the proponents can make the debate about the rights to health care, rather than how to pay or provide for it, the discussion will continued to be mired in unanswerable objections of the bureaucrats.

If Americans decide and demand health care as a right and not a privilege, the debate would end, but no national leaders have made this case and instead are kept on the defensive. And the sad truth is, when a leader is forced to defend rather than push an initiative, the bureaucrats will always win.

And the moral of the story … the lesson we can learn is this

To be a leader in life and in business make it a rule to always be the one who is proposing, not opposing. Understand, communicate and focus on the specific objective or initiative you seek to achieve. Make the debate focus on the benefits and value of the plan you propose. This will give you a much better chance of winning the day. Once the debaters decide your objective is worthwhile to achieve, let the others deal with the details, while never allowing them to lose sight of the objective on which all parties have agreed.

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