Relational Leadership and MAD Leadership Matter!


David Ivers is from Sydney, Australia. He is a qualified Primary and Secondary School Teacher. In total, he has served on school leadership teams for 16 years in senior leadership roles.

Any customer that walks away, disrespected and defeated, represents tens of thousands of dollars out the door, in addition to the failure of a promise the brand made in the first place. You can’t see it but it’s happening, daily.”

Seth Godin. 18 January 2015. “Please Go Away!”

This quote really goes to the heart of a number of issues in any organization, Government agencies included. The first thing to consider in this quote is the question of respectful relationships and what that looks like in a modern workplace? The second follows from it. Simply put, it is about how you value your staff? The third aspect of this quote is the use of data that seems to come from nowhere. How do you use data as a tool for managing and leading?

In the world of school education, often people who are not in the teaching profession will talk about schools being on about the three ‘R’s’: ‘Reading’ ‘wRiting’, ‘aRithmetic’. These are of course specific skillsets that any reasonable person, including teachers, would agree that students graduating high school should be able to do. There is though, another set of three ‘Rs’ that teachers often refer to. At the heart of good teaching and good education is good learning. To achieve that in a sustainable matter requires the three ‘Rs’: Relationship, Relationship, Relationship. It is impossible to teach effectively if the teacher does not have a positive, professional relationship with both the students in their classes and more broadly, the students in the school. Ask any casual / relief teacher how hard their job is and they will tell you, that most of it comes from not being in the school long enough to form those positive professional relationships.

We live in an era in which almost everyone is connected.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, in his 1947 essay “The Purpose of Education” really hones in on why this is a critical issue in schools.

“Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only the power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (1947) “The Purpose of Education” 

Ultimately, these students finish school, and many will graduate from a college or a university and move into a workplace. The modeling of positive, professional relationships then, ultimately finds its way into the workplace, the boardrooms and even the legislatures around the country.

Tom Peters highlights the competitive advantage that positive relationships bring for any organization.

“If I were your competitor, I could walk into this hotel and easily copy your physical product. I could study your service standards and copy them too. What I could not copy are the personal relationships you have with your customers. Those relationships would be impenetrable to me.”

Tom Peters (2007) Relationships: A Competitive Advantage

What is at the heart of good, solid, positive relationships? As I wrote in 2018:

“At the basis of all good relationships are Honesty, Trust, Courage, Compassion, Compunction, Wisdom, Good Communication, Respect, Integrity, Fairness, Justice. This is not meant to be an exclusive list, rather a starter list for others to add to.”

David Ivers (2018) Christian Leadership: A Blessing 

Let us turn now to the question, how much are you worth to your Government agency? 

Assuming the job you do has been well designed and that you interact with members of the public on a regular basis (thus have a professional relationship with the public), or that you support those that do, then you are immensely valuable to your Government agency.

Sure, not all Government agencies derive income from the sale of services to the public. Many are in the business of disseminating funds that are part of a Government program. Just because you disseminate funds rather than receive them, doesn’t make your position any less valuable. In fact, you may well be able to argue the opposite.

For example, Governments often run a welfare program. Assume your agency distributes Government funds to the unemployed or to the elderly or to those with disabilities, your work is actually making the life of a disadvantaged person, just that bit better. 

For example, the maximum aged pension, with all supplements included,  distributed by the Department of Human Services in Australia (an Australian Government Department) is $1852.40 per month. 

So, every two weeks, you are assisting a person by $926.20. This means that on an annual basis, the total amount paid to the aged pensioner would be $22,228.80, not inclusive of discounts on prescription medications, utility bills, and even council rates. If our Government employee were not providing this assistance, it is most likely that the aged person’s family would need to subsidize them. That means that the effect of this benefit could extend beyond the individual pensioner to indirectly benefiting their family, by not having to subsidize them. Issues around ‘Human Dignity’ come into play here also. In other words, the effect of this as a dollar value is at least $44,457.60 per year. 

Assume now that our humble Government employee pays this benefit to the same 100 people each month, all of whom started receiving the aged pension at the same time. Now multiply these 100 people by $44,457.60 (to account for the indirect benefit to the family as well). In this scenario, our Government employee has benefited the community to the tune of $4,445,760 per year, which is remarkable when you think about it. 

The other way of thinking about an employee’s value is to think of it in terms of a potential cost to the organization.

Imagine that you are employed in a retail setting, selling goods or services to the public. Imagine the average sale is $30. What is the impact of a lost sale of $30 because a customer leaves the store unhappy, maybe even angry at the way they were (or perhaps were not treated)? The lost customer value is not $30. That lost customer most likely has 6 friends. Each of those 6 friends, has 6 friends and so you could keep going to a total of 6 levels. Inclusive of the lost customer, there are potentially 55,987 people who ultimately could find out about this incident. Now multiply that number by $30. Your lost customer value is $1,679,610. Now how much do you think you are worth?

Here is where the rubber really hits the road. You are potentially worth in the millions of dollars to either your company (which may be a government-controlled entity) or to your Government agency. What does all of this mean though and why should you care?

When you get to the job interview that you have been dreaming about, the panel is not just considering your qualifications and experiences. They are also considering whether you would be a ‘good fit’ for the Government agency or company and whether you will be of great value to them or whether you could be a cost to them or worse, an ongoing liability.

In the world of governance, the management of risk is critical. One of those is reputational risk for the organization, in the case of a Government agency, the reputational risk will most likely cost money by impacting on the budget of the organization. Depending on the cause of the problem, it may well manifest itself in a court of law as a legal risk and that most likely means a financial risk as well. Government agencies try to avoid this type of reputational damage for obvious reasons, as most companies do also.

We live in an era in which almost everyone is connected. In fact, most First Aid manuals assume you, or someone near you has a mobile phone on them. The first action these days in First Aid is to call emergency services for help! If that is the case, then we are all connected. The unhappy customer, that potentially could reach 55,987 people (inclusive of themselves) by word of mouth, could at the click of a mouse or by simply pressing ‘Tweet’ on a platform such as Twitter, could reach thousands of people, simultaneously and instantly. Each of these people, know 6 people, who know 6 people, etc…In short 55,987 people could quickly become more like 5,598,700 people with minimal effort. It literally might take years to build a reputation and yet pressing the send button, could end it.

This brings us to the question of data. Data can be theoretical by simply doing some basic mathematics, using information that is readily available. The lost customer value explained in this article, is an example of such data being garnered using this method. The other sources of data may be from a Government Census or it may be information stored in a database. The reality is, whether you work in education, health, taxation, in fact, any endeavor that may be undertaken by a government agency, you are likely to have access to a plethora of data. The issue is working out what is useful and why? 

The Data Wise Project’ at Harvard Graduate School of Education has some excellent resources to help an individual or an organization understand their data better, using a process of ‘collaborative inquiry’, which of course requires positive, professional relationships. Every piece of data has a context and when the puzzle is pieced together, it tells a meaningful story. 

In short, data that has been properly interrogated to reveal the story within helps leaders to lead more effectively. It allows them to manage projects and situations in a more responsive manner. It is what I like to call the MAD (Management through Access of Data) approach to leadership. MAD leadership of course, potentially gives a better understanding of the relationships needed in the project, the situation or organization. 

All of this leads to employees being highly engaged in their work and highly collaborative in the work they do with others. Whether it is through the use of data, realizing your value to the organization or simply creating effective and positive relationships, all of these things leads to that moment of involvement and commitment to mission success.

“Without involvement, there is no commitment. Mark it down, asterisk it, circle it, underline it. No involvement, no commitment.”

Stephen R. Covey. (2004). “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.”  New York: Simon and Schuster. p.143.


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