Behind the scenes leadership dynamic

While the most visible and pronounced leader in a congressional office is decidedly the congressperson, a whole separate leadership structure exists within the office in order to take care of constituents. At the head of this district office is the district director who oversees all activities and interactions in the community; this person is essentially the deputy chief of staff. Our district director has a wealth of knowledge from working in the community and maintains a clear yet informal leadership position over the office staffers and interns. Our district director allows the staffers a good bit of latitude in the way they handle the cases they get assigned. I find that this to be the case because while a congressional office is political by nature, most of the services required by constituents are emphatically non-partisan. For example, when a veteran is struggling to obtain her proper benefits from the VA or an elderly man is looking for help into the cause of the stoppage in his social security payments, we don’t ask who they voted for in the last election, we ensure that they receive the benefits owed to them by their federal government. Each staffer has his or her own realm of expertise, be it immigration, veterans affairs, or social security, and they are granted autonomy in closing their cases. These staffers will occasionally assign projects to interns and will serve as the supervisor for such projects. My encounters with many of the staffers have, for the most part, been in line with how our district director allows the staffers to conduct their own work without much oversight. We, as the interns, get clear directions and deadlines for certain assignments and are expected to finish those assignments without the necessity of constant supervision. Additionally, contrary to belief, this political office maintains a lot of trust between staffers and supervisors. The typical cutthroat attribute assigned to all things political hasn’t appeared to penetrate this district office. While the office is an extremely young one and the Congressman assumed office in January, there seems to be a certain culture of trust which might’ve been gained through many long hours spent campaigning prior to their congressional roles.

One thought on “Behind the scenes leadership dynamic

  • June 13, 2019 at 11:34 am

    So though there is formal leadership structure, there is the opportunity for staff to assume leadership (for individual projects and in supervising interns); will be interesting to see if there are every any instances when individuals working on their own projects/assignments make decisions that those above them do not support/agree with. Perhaps the trust is related to long hours working together, but it would be good to consider to reflect on this and identify if there are other elements/circumstances that have contributed to cultivating that trust. As you mentioned in a previous blog, life in a congressional office may be short lived (due to elections) and though the individuals working around you seem committed to civil service, seems there may be more to explain how the trust was developed.

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