The way of the leader
Greatness is not found under a rock.
You may have noticed lately that it gets more and more difficult to state an opinion without someone slamming you down and silencing you. The tactics are varied, and can feel very powerful if you are not ready for them. The methods are shame based, with the intent to make you feel stupid, less than, uninformed, uneducated, unworthy or ridiculous. Their tactics are based on black and white thinking using an either/or answer to a problem. You are either for us or against us. Those tactics are divisive, factionalizing and uninformed, not to mention lazy.
To those who are attempting to think through our societal woes, of which there are many, by looking at all sides, looking for truth instead of opinion, for what might work instead of why it won’t, to you, I say, hang tough. Stay focused. Don’t let the naysayers derail you.
The world needs leaders that are willing to think for themselves, stable enough to incorporate conflicting messages into their thinking without hating, blaming or dividing: leaders who can validate one’s right to an opinion while holding a conflicting or opposing belief. This is a sign of intelligence. This is the kind of thinking that can lead to compromise and solutions. This is the kind of thinking that can strengthen a nation.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
However, these kinds of leaders seem scarce these days. Many are playing politics and jockeying for approval ratings. Many of our deep thinkers are being silenced and shamed for their thoughts if they oppose the noisy minority. Nothing positive has ever been accomplished by piling shaming accusations on freethinking. We need leaders that are willing to think, willing to express those thoughts in a reasonable, straightforward way. We need leaders who are not afraid of the noisy, destructive opposition who would try to chase you under a rock to shut you up.
You may stay on the sidelines, wearily shaking your head, wishing things would get better, hoping that problems get solved and criticizing those that are out in the fray; however, if you actually want to change the world, you must be the one to learn to stay steady, get grounded and be laser focused. This takes practice, self-discipline and self-awareness. This is the way of the leader.
Getting grounded through meditation, breathing techniques, healthy coping strategies and conscious thought patterns is what is needed for today’s leaders, executives and politicians. Shouting louder that the other guy makes as much sense as talking to someone of a different culture and language by raising your voice, thinking they will ultimately “get it” if you shout. It not only offends and insults but it builds walls, not solutions.
And we sorely need solutions. Not division. Not more factions.
After a recent presentation, someone asked me, “But what do you do when you are really scared. I mean really?” My answer was simple. What you have trained yourself to do.
You can’t manage a crisis by the seat of your pants any more than you can be in a battle for the soul of your country without having trained your mind and spirit. Leaders train themselves to be grounded yet flexible, open minded yet focused, authentic and engaged. Every day.
If this concept is new to you, as a leader, begin today by taking three deep breaths, holding for a few seconds and releasing fully, at various times throughout your day, when you feel tension rising. Learn to take a breath as soon as you realize you are triggered, before you say anything at all. Then respond. You will notice that people begin to respond better to you, and you are on your way to creating solutions instead of exacerbating the problem. The world needs you.
Marianne Clyde, an expert in mental health in the workplace, speaks to businesses and associations about empowerment, team-building and relationship-networking. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, in practice for over 27 years. She lived in Japan for over eight years and has spent time in at least 20 developing countries, teaching about recovery from trauma, personal empowerment and interpersonal relationships.