When I was a Lt. Commander many years ago, I had the pleasure of being selected for the Leaders Developing Leaders program at the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the things that stuck with me was an opening poem by Mary Lou Anderson, who was co-leading the program.
Leaders are called to stand
In that lonely place
Between the no longer and the not yet
And intentionally make decisions
That will bind, forge, move,
And create history.
We are not called to be popular,House of Delegates Address 1970
We are not called to be safe,
We are not called to follow.
We are the ones called to take risks,
We are the ones called to change attitudes,
To risk displeasure,
We are the ones called to gamble our lives
For a better world.
Mary Lou Anderson
Today, I see too many leaders who think leadership is snarky retorts, sneering when challenged with a question that makes them uncomfortable or proposes a different perspective, and all too often, a tendency to discuss those they do not like or agree with in public settings in an attempt to demean them. I’ve often wondered what promotes such aggressive behavior. Sometimes, it is biased due to race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. In other cases, it seems to be a belief that by demeaning the other, they promote themself and create allies. They push people away, promote distrust, and start rumors.
Whatever the reason behind the behavior, it further divides people. It weakens their leadership as more people disapprove than the leader will ever know. People who disagree should not be considered enemies, flawed, or lacking X, Y, or Z characteristics. Until we see each other, hear each other, and feel for each other, we will continue to divide ourselves into us versus them, and thus we all lose.
Embrace leadership Being open to discourse Grow like the lotus