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It's Easy to Pretend Government Doesn't Matter

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Gautam Mukunda, author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter, recently told Excellence in Government that critics of government employees have forgotten what life was like before government regulations made life simpler.

“It’s a shame that [government employees] are being vilified because the people who are doing that, at a basic level fail, to understand the extent to which the activities of the government—especially the federal government—undergird every part of the day-to-day life of the United States,” said Mukunda.

From Mars Curiosity and military families to the inspectors at the Food and Drug Administration, Mukunda said that those who broadly criticize government services are being shortsighted.

“It is easy to pretend that these things happen without organization precisely because the people in our government do those jobs so well that the people who make these critiques do not even know what a world where these jobs are not being done would be like,” said Mukunda. “They have forgotten what the world was like because these institutions existed to make their lives smooth.”

Mukunda advised federal employees feeling discouraged by negative media attention to take joy in their jobs and not worry about what others think. Happiness comes from doing your job and doing it well, he said.

“What [government employees] can take away from the book and the message as a whole is that a job worth doing done well is rewarding whatever other people think of you,” said Mukunda. “There’s a difference between honor and reputation. Reputation is what other people think of you and honor is what you know about yourself. To do your job well is to do it honorably and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for.”

Watch Mukunda’s full interview:

Register for free at Excellence in Government Broadcast to see Mukunda’s keynote about the leadership lessons we can all learn from past U.S. presidents. 

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Bryan Klopack is the Executive Director of Research and Analysis for the Government Executive Media Group (GEMG). In addition to leading the organization’s research arm, The Government Business Council (www.govexec.com/gbc), he also serves as the Program Chair for the Excellence In Government LIVE event and editor of Excellence In Government ONLINE blog, Promising Practices. Prior to joining Government Executive Media Group in 2008, Bryan worked for the non-profit The Council for Excellence in Government after completing a Public Affairs Fellowship and a brief stint working in the U.S. Senate.

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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