Leadership Development: Putting Blame In All The Wrong Places

The patterns of the past are haunting us these days.  Good leadership development requires us to read the signs of the times and lead people to a better and more positive place.

How to lead in uncertain times is the highest form of leadership.

The question is how to create an atmosphere where there can be a dialogue rather than resort to fist fighting?

How do we move from pistols to peace-tools? Figuratively with words or physically with objects.

When there are those who choose to “Not See” any point of view but their own, who condemn and disparage others, the natural tendency is to go to the other extreme. The desire is to prove how wrong they are. Then we stay lost in the realm of right and wrong, good and bad, yes and no.

Before you get upset and stop reading, please hear me: Understanding is NOT excusing.

If we are to make progress in the time of social media where information leaps around the world in minutes we are going to require a better way of communicating with each other.

“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing more difficult than understanding him.” A quote from Russian author Dostoevsky gives us pause to ask, “Why bother?”

Isn’t it easier to put someone in jail, or fire them at work and simply move on?

Here’s the challenge.

What other ways we can look at difficult situations and develop methods of discussion, to include those we see as “the enemy” at work, in our communities, on our planet? What’s in the way of retooling our thinking to go upstream for more effective answers?

It’s called a paradigm shift.

The temptation is to attack the symptoms rather than to create change at a more fundamental level.

A Story “Saving Drowning Kids.”

              The fishermen at the river’s edge heard a little boy calling for help in the rushing water. Someone jumped in to save him. In a few minutes, there were two more children calling for help. And soon there followed more youngsters.One man left the group and there were taunts of disdain, how could he leave when they could save the children.

                An hour later he returned and when the anger finally abated he said “Someone had to find out why the children were in the river in the first place. Yes, we saved a dozen, who knows if this would have continued day after day.”

           “So, I went upstream and found the kids crossing an old rickety bridge with rotting planks that were falling out. I stopped the children and had someone from town come to replace the planks.”

Going up river means looking at pre-existing conditions and leading in a way that will inspire rather than inflame.

There has been a great deal of research about the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and many factors were involved. One that has always haunted me is that so many of the thugs, yes thugs (I said that understanding is not excusing) who brutalized others came from families where they were either physically or verbally abused as children, or there was a trauma such as a suicide or other type of abandonment by parents.

What would make someone hate others “just because?”

Go upriver by researching what you can about the naysayers in your midst. Learn about their lives, their stories and then begin to help find better ways of resolving the tough issues

Here is a list of important questions for you to ask as you take the reins of leadership to help find more effective ways to solve difficult work and community problems.

  1. Who said it? It is someone you know, a person in authority or some amorphous “he said, they said.”
  2. What did they say? What are the facts or is it just a strong of slogans and empty rhetoric.
  3. Where did they say it? Was this a public or private meeting. Who else was in the room.
  4. When did they say it? Was the discussion with you before, during or after a difficult meeting.
  5. Why did they say it? Was this said to provoke you, make them look good, become your ally.
  6. How did they say it? What was the tonality? Was it friendly, argumentative, secretive? Loud or quiet.

In my experience and in my book “UNIQUE: How Story Sparks Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement” I give examples of what can happen to teams and to individuals when they take the time to ask the questions and  learn about each other.

Effective leadership development requires you and you and you and me, all of us, to reframe the way we think and take that trip up river.

Sylvia Lafair

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