Has your lack of leadership led to a cultural failure?

Does your company have the same HR problems that the Secret Service does?
Does your company have the same HR problems that the Secret Service does?

What happens when your organization has a lapse in procedure, or a failure in communication, or misses an important detail? In most cases nothing dire, but in the case of the Secret Service, these errors may cause harm to befall the President. A series of just such lapses and mistakes has brought scrutiny on the Secret Service. The results of this scrutiny may have lessons for use all.

Several things lacking

An investigation of the recent failures of the Secret Service showed that there were many things lacking and thus preventing the organization from being as effective as it needed to be.


The first of these is proper staffing. The Secret Service is stretched very thin. They are not just the guys in the black suits with the wire hanging out of their ear; there is also a uniformed contingent. Both groups are short people; in fact a panel recommended another 285 agents and officers. That is a significant shortfall in the number of people needed to get the job done. Kellan Howell, of The Washington Times, conjectures that this shortfall may be an unintended consequence of the dedication of the employees who have worked long hours.

Lack of training

When the skill of the employee is absolutely critical to the proper performance of the job then training is something that cannot be ignored. The panel investigating the failure of the Secret Service found that agents only received an average of 42 hours of training per year and the uniformed members only received 25 minutes a year of training! In positions where everyone must be at the top of their game, that level of training was woefully lacking.

Lack of leadership

The panel also found that there was a lack of competent leadership. I imagine this was a consequence of a lack of training. The Secret Service expected people to step up and be leaders but with a lack of training and a lack of accountability you don’t get that. The investigating panel instead found a culture of arrogance and laziness. The panel’s recommendation was to bring in leadership from the outside.

Is your organization like the Secret Service?

You may be wondering why I am writing about the Secret Service in a human resources blog. The reason is that they are an organization like any other. They have their human resources issues that can act as examples for the rest of us. Substitute any other organization in the story and you get a case study of Human Resources gone bad. They lack leadership which results in laziness, no accountability, valuable assets being ignored, no recognition of initiative or creativity, a lack of training and woeful understaffing. That list adds up to a culture that is not working and an HR department that is not doing their job.
The Secret Service may not have its own HR department to be able to blame for these failures. If there had been perhaps warning bells would have gone off that might have corrected these problems. Your situation may be different. If you have a department or company or an organization that has become dysfunctional this post may point you in the right direction. Ask these questions:

  • Are there enough people to do the job?
  • Are the employees trained to the level needed?
  • Is there accountability in place?
  • Are employees rewarded and recognized?
  • Is the leadership up to the task?

If the answers are not positive then you will know what needs to be changed to produce the culture needed for success.
I am hopeful the Secret Service is successful in transforming itself. We don’t really need a national tragedy.
photo credit: MS clip art

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