As the Biden administration takes shape, the new president has called for unity and government contracting firms and the executives that lead them have an opportunity to set a positive example for both industry and country.
Even if you are a Trump supporter, you have to acknowledge the change in tone that the Biden administration represents is significant.
When I think of the major themes President Biden struck around unity and cooperation, I also thought of the government contracting industry.
While generally seen as a moderate-to-conservative industry, GovCon is in a position to set an example for a way forward out of the rampant divisiveness that has plagued the country since even before President Trump turbocharged the partisanship.
One of the remarkable things about the GovCon industry is the whole concept of co-opetition or "competimates." With one breath, you fiercely compete against each other and in another you form close alliances. Often these seemingly contradictory positions are going on simultaneously.
I’m not naive and know companies' decisions to compete or partner are driven by a desire to drive revenue and increase profits. That’s OK and how it should be.
But I also believe that regardless of the competitive juices that may flow, the GovCon industry has an overarching belief in the mission of government. There is a true sense of duty and of service that flows through the industry.
That is a model they can show the entire country.
To paraphrase President Biden’s speech, GovCon’s opportunity is to lead -- not merely by the example of your power and capabilities but by the power of your example.
It starts with leadership and we saw that after the murder of George Floyd, when executives opened lines of communication across their companies to have difficult and painful conversations and recognize how close to home the work is to address race and social justice issues.
We saw it again in the aftermath of the riots on Capitol Hill when numerous chief executives forcefully condemned the violence as an attack on our nation’s guiding principles.
Those kinds of actions should continue. It’s not Blue or Red. Those are areas where we should all agree, but sometimes we just need to be reminded why we should agree.
That’s the tone and message company leaders need to keep sending their employees as well because many GovCon employees voted for President Trump and I’m sure more than a few CEOs did as well.
But the message and the example is that the mission of government is non-partisan. Emphasis and priorities might change but the heart of the mission doesn’t.
One CEO told me a long time ago that he uses the Presidential Oath as the lens through which he decides whether his company is doing the right thing:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
There are other words from the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that can be guiding principles as well. A lot is right there with the preamble of the Constitution: “Form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
GovCon firms have navigated transitions before and done so successfully because of the emphasis on mission ahead of partisanship. They will again.
Of course, it is smart business. But there also is the larger opportunity to show the world that our national principles prevail. To steal a theme from the poet Amanda Gorman -- GovCon leaders can be brave enough to see the light and be the light.