Increasingly, there are many days when the light is cast on another example of what our CHILDREN are seeing as they watch us day-to-day --- each time setting the example for them as adults. It makes me shudder. How about you? Have you noticed? Has it always been this way? Am I just waking up to the gross reality of our sometimes shameful behavior?
I've never seen myself as a moralist --- hardly --- but Ralph Waldo Emerson's words seem more real and relevant than ever before..."What you DO speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say."
Unfortunately, many of the wonderful leadership examples are more often than not over-shadowed by the dramatic ones the media picks up and plays over and over.
I guess what has made me most sad recently is the state of our politics. When we have such serious problems to solve --- and President Obama appears to earnestly be working to solve them --- the daily parade of partisan attacks that holds up progress and solutions is disheartening, don't you think? I find it almost embarrassing to watch our politicians lie and cheat and mislead, and tell half-truths and refuse to show up and talk and talk and talk.
As woman leader, this week it hit me hard to watch Sarah Palin so joyfully mock the President of the United States, while standing on a world stage, especially in such a personal way. In the days that followed it played over and over again. These questions have been echoing in my mind...
- What message does this give to her children and our children about RESPECTING others?
- What message plays across the world about how we respect our President in the U.S.?
- What message does it leave about EXCELLENCE that Ms.Palin seemed to so casually mock...while other adults cheered and jeered?
- What message does it leave about the character of women leaders when it is so unnecessary to be so mean-spirited in one's rhetoric about anyone, especially for personal gain?
- Shouldn't we be expecting more from our leaders at all levels and the examples they demontrate day-to-day for our kids and those looking to them for leadership?
In my leadership training at IBM at a very young age, I was taught two things about EXCELLENCE that have stayed with me: EXCELLENCE speaks for itself. It is not necessary to disparage others if EXCELLENCE is your mark of distinction. It was a business conduct practice.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
In my book, Putting Our Differences to Work: The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership, and High Performance, I introduce Five Distinctive Qualities of Leadership. Two of them seem perfect to heal this current reality if we all applied them to our lives and work:
4 Hold personal responsibility as a core value.
This quality acknowledges the shift from “institutional loyalty” of the past to the reality of being “free agents,” or perhaps other more fluid, mobile kinds of arrangements we’ve not yet imagined in the marketplaces, workplaces, and communities that are in a continual state of churn. What is added to our way of operating as individuals is the essential quality that Nelson Mandela affirmed, “With freedom comes responsibility.” It is a sense of personal responsibility that needs to be part of our portable portfolio that goes with us when we move from one job to another, to a new company or within an organization, out in the community or in some new region of the world. Putting our differences to work is greatly enhanced when personal responsibility is a common thread woven tightly into everyone’s fabric. The focus here is what is right to do.
5 Establish mutualism as the final arbiter for all actions.
This quality builds upon the definition of mutualism: a doctrine that mutual dependence is necessary for social well-being. It is also essential for organizational well-being. This quality applies this concept to all aspects of work and life in all types of organizations, institutions and entities. It creates a new definition of success that has a clear “yardstick” that serves as the final arbiter of all plans, innovations, decisions, products, services, programs, profit-making, et al: Everyone benefits and no one is harmed.In other words, it creates win, win, win – I win, you win, we all win. Building the future on a foundation of mutualism changes everything we do. It asks more of us, but the benefits are significant. It demands that we consciously make a routine practice of first evaluating our actions, behavior, decisions, thinking, and new ideas with a thoughtful inspection of the implications and benefits to all concerned. It adds a new element of consideration to every strategic plan or action.
What would you suggest?
Would love to hear from you...
Debbefounder, president, and CEO
Global Dialogue Center and Leadership Solutions Companies
Twitter: @debbekennedy @onlinedialogues
author, Putting Our Differences to Work:
The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership, and High Performance