Leadership in a Time of Incivility

John Lewis

Watching the service for John Lewis got me thinking. About civil rights, about politics, about funerals, and mostly about civility.

That’s something we have lost in our country.

Not only civility, even more, but we have also lost the dream of the United States. Why are we so fragmented today? Why are so many people angry and taking sides without asking questions? How have we gotten so far from the dream of the shining land on the top of a hill?

While there are many issues to deal with the main one is leadership.

I have dedicated many years to study, research, and work with leaders from Fortune 100 companies to start-ups. What I see that has changed in recent years is the compartmentalization that is, in a sense, killing us.

We have stopped thinking about the system, the way we are all connected.

Everyone seems so overwhelmed, on the downward route to burn out. It’s not just the virus or Black lives Matter. Yes, they are vital factors in the equation leading to our national despair. It’s more. And this is where leadership is lacking.

It’s the way we are talking AT rather than TO each other; fanning the flames of hatred, the game of gotcha.

Listening to the family, friends, and colleagues of John Lewis made me yearn for what is missing.

We are so uncivil.

Someone recently questioned on my Facebook group for women leaders about the uninvited militia in Portland and wanted to know why this is necessary. The response was “If you don’t like us protecting our federal buildings then, GTFO”.

How have we become so crass? So crude? So, yes, to me, so uncivilized.

At the service for John Lewis in the Rotunda of the Capitol building Nancy Pelosi spoke quietly and then let Congressman Lewis’ words speak.

It was at that moment my sadness went deep.

The recording of one of his speeches was eloquent and elegant. He chided people to think better thoughts, to dream bigger dreams. Many at the service had on masks that said, “Good trouble.” It was a reminder that as a young black man in the South his parents told him to “stay out of trouble.” He saw the wrongs and was willing to put his life on the line. He survived to keep fighting, what he called “Good Trouble.”

We need more leaders to come forward and model what John Lewis taught.

He would never say to someone who disagreed, “then GTFO.”

This post is dedicated to a man I never knew, just knew about.

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Sylvia Lafair

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