Saturday, October 22, 2011


For those of us who view Rwanda with hope on occasion we have a moment where we conclude, “This country does not work.” The policeman stops directing traffic to answer his phone. Our paper work that should take days to complete takes months. Our food is delivered late and cold. We choose not to join the ranks of Rwanda hating bloggers. Instead we seek understanding and solution. Some argue for better customer service. Some argue for more training. Some point to leadership patterns.

I have a new understanding. The problem is the level three bureaucrats. The answer is to love level three.

Cultural insiders and comedians have pointed out that our region is very aware of the hierarchy of influence. Some conclude there are three circles of influence in every social cluster. The task of each circle of influence is to try to get into the next inner circle. I am not convinced it is that cutthroat. However, I do notice circles of influence in all organizations. I propose that one of the reasons that Rwanda does not always act with efficiency is the level three bureaucrats.

Level one is a single vision bearer. He clearly knows what will be the final outcome. He has a certain amount of natural charisma, raw talent, and leadership ability. He labors long hours. He gathers people to his vision. He has very high standards. We find these vision bearers in all growing organizations from schools to churches to business to government. As the institution he leads grows he must add colleagues.

The first addition is level two policy creator. He takes the vision and begins to put flesh upon it. He begins to lay out the basic policy framework that will turn the vision into reality. He is well educated. He is seasoned. He is stable. He like the level one vision bearer has high standards of ethics. His work ethics are impeccable. You notice that you sometimes get business emails from him sent as late as 11:00 p.m. or as early as 5:00 a.m. He keeps his nose to the grindstone and sometimes does not see the big picture. Yet, the level two policy creator is essential to an enduring institution.

The greatest level one leaders of history know the value of relinquishment. They know that without relinquishment they will build a doomed personality cult. The level two leader is the key colleague of level one. Level two makes sure the intellectual framework remains for an enduring institution. Without him level one is sunk. Great level two leaders gave us enduring literature ranging from the New Testament to Nation’s Constitutions.

Now we hit the snag. Level two policy creators need to delegate. We all need protégés. So level two delegates to level three the creator and executor of procedure. In an exceptional organization with a well educated staff level three works. Excellence is built. The ideal level three bureaucrat is a future level one leader. He has raw talent mirrored with education and social sophistication. He quickly gets the vision. Then he does the nuts and bolts grunt work to make the vision happen.

Yet, sometimes this ideal does not happen. You can usually tell first as level one and two are simply exhausted. They have blood shot eyes from too little sleep. They are still masterfully polite. They model customer service. Yet underneath they are weary. When a local pastor briefly visits them, they quickly respond, “YES! PLEASE!” to an offer to pray for their office.
For those who wait for the services of the inefficient level three bureaucrats, prepare to wait. Wait. Hurry up. Wait some more. Find out you didn’t communicate properly. Redo the communication. Wait. Hurry up. Wait some more. Level three does not get the vision. He is consumed with procedure. He does not understand the importance of a good final product.
Now what do those of us who have the misfortune of being stuck with a poor level three do?
Options abound – Get angry. Write a mean letter to the editor. Go into passive aggressive mode and make life difficult for level three while finding a way to dodge personal accountability.

Let me propose a new way. Love level three bureaucrats. Wise men from all ages have stated, “Treat others as you want to be treated.” We may rant about how to change level threw bureaucrats, but most of us will never have the opportunity to do anything more than rant. Love is in our capacity.

Be kind to level three. Be patient with level three. Be forgiving of level three.
For it is quite likely that all of us will someday be in a place of level three. We will have a new job, live in a new city, and get a new start. While we hope we are competent. We will be in over our heads. Hopefully, a level two or one will come close and guide us. Also, hopefully, a customer won’t be cruel to us.

No one likes to be level three. We should empathize. Many do not like those who exist at level three. Yet all of us can choose to love level three. Make the choice.

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