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Don’t Forget the People

by Dr. Patrick Malone, Director, Key Executive Leadership Programs

Just before America found itself in the midst of a pandemic, three important pieces of research were released that gave us an indication of the status of the American workforce. And the results were quite sobering.

A Gallup survey released in late 2019 addressed the challenge of anxiety in the American worker. The findings were astonishing:

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress;
  • US businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly as a result of workplace stress; Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day;
  • only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance;
  • and work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly. The average American stress levels are 20% higher than the world average.

And remember, this was pre-Covid.

Americans are also afraid.

People most fear corrupt government and medical bills.

Each year Chapman University performs their annual Survey of American Fears (CSAF). Here is where we stand. Three of the top 10 fears are directly related to illness, dying, and high medical bills. And American’s biggest fear? Corrupt government officials. So, to put that into perspective, in the biggest pandemic that any of us will likely ever see in our lives, Americans are afraid of everything related to health, dying, ability to cover medical bills, and government leadership.

And remember, this was pre-Covid.

Finally, people are lonely. Loneliness research is a fairly recent, if overdue, phenomenon. The Cigna U.S. Loneliness Index recently found that three out of every five adults, or 61%, report that they sometimes or always feel lonely. And of those, there is a greater feeling of loneliness among people who use social media more frequently, which is precisely what many of us are doing now. And for the Gen Zs, whom many of us consider to be super tech-savvy, well, they may be. But 73% of them report sometimes or always feeling alone, a 4% increase from 2018.

And remember, this was pre-Covid.

So what does this mean for us? It means that as leaders we will need to work harder to love those we lead, and let them know it.

This comes from our hearts. It’s a soul connection, not an intellectual one, not a technical one. Love transcends best practices, design thinking, strategic planning, and all things related. In the DC metropolitan area especially, there are a number of available outlets producing leadership reports, how to manuals, future of leadership, today’s leadership, tomorrow’s leadership, and on and on and on. We wait each year for the colorful, graphic laden portrayal so we can learn the latest on leadership. Yet woefully few, if any of these reports ever mention the word love.

Maybe the time is now.

About the Author

Dr. Patrick Malone

Professor Malone is an Executive-in-Residence in the Department of Public Administration and Policy where he teaches courses in public sector leadership, executive problem solving, organizational analysis, action learning, leadership ethics, and public administration and policy. He also serves as the Director of American University’s Key Executive Leadership Programs. He is a frequent guest lecturer on leadership and organizational dynamics in state and federal agencies, professional associations, and universities. He has extensive experience working with federal sector leaders from DHHS, EPA, IRS, USDA, HUD, DHS, and DoD among others. Professor Malone also regularly presents in international forums to government leaders from the Republic of Vietnam, Panama, Poland, Belgium, and Mauritius. His research interests and scholarship include work in public service motivation, leadership, ethics, and organizational behavior. He is one of only thirty researchers in the country certified to score the Subject/Object qualitative research methodology developed at Harvard University.

Dr Malone spent twenty-two years in the Department of Defense where he served in a number of senior leadership and policy roles including as a professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; Academic Director; and Dean of Academics for Navy Medicine. His most recent publications include “Thinking Up,” “Selfies in the Workplace: Narcissists and the Public Manager,” “Making Assumptions? Try the Power of Inquiry,” “The Challenges That Set Public Service Apart” and “Enhancing Your Leadership by Tapping into Staff Attitudes.” His TED Talk, “Thinking about Time,” is available at http://tedxtalks.ted.com and his co-edited book, The Handbook of Federal Leadership and Administration, was published in November 2016. He is also the host of the monthly podcast “Take It From Key.”

About the Key Programs

Key is the global public sector leadership program of choice, as it challenges good managers to become extraordinary leaders who become lifelong learners and build an environment of organizational success. Home to the 3rd nationally ranked Executive MPA program and leadership certificate programs, Key’s alumni leave as leaders who exhibit passion for improving public service, act with integrity and authenticity, become a force for personal and organizational change, and empower others to action and excel.  

SPA Key Executive Leadership Programs


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