One of the things I have embraced over the past couple of years is the concept of the “hard conversation” is not necessarily a bad conversation. It is hard. So what? Lots of things are hard. The unfortunate thing we face in today’s society is that it is easy for many to avoid the hard conversation. We can turn to social media or a myriad of other distractions to see the world the way we want to see the world. Makes it really easy for us to avoid the work we so desperately need to do. Work that helps us to step into these hard conversations.
In any event, I have been reading “The Good Struggle: Responsible Leadership in an Unforgiving World” this past month and actually finished reading it as the SCOTUS decision came down making it possible for everyone to marry the person they love. What an example of the “good struggle” in action. In one chapter, the author asks us whether we have the right core values when we enter these struggles. Quite often it is easy to lose track of our core values and start to defend our need to be “right” instead of our need to learn.
LeaderShape’s vision of the world is just, caring, and thriving. I think this good struggle has helped us get a little closer to a just, caring, thriving world. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we still have avoided the conversation. The argument may have played out in D.C., but the argument, or rather the conversation, still needs to happen all over the world. Part of winning elections or winning decisions like that is to recognize that we still need each other regardless of how stupid we make think someone else is. The hard work is not finished when you reach 51% of the vote or come to a 5-4 decision. The hard work is in the need to continue to provide space for learning, caring, disagreement, and understanding.
Of course this past month has had plenty of examples of conversations we don’t really want to have or just haven’t had like the confederate flag flying over government buildings…still. The difficult part of living in a “winner takes all world” is that it creates a constant contest for the next election, vote, or decision. Rather than trying to understand and explain our beliefs, we focus on winning. In this struggle to articulate our beliefs and our viewpoints, we often succumb to the sound bite, the meme, or the headline missing the nuance, the pain, the joy, and the distrust.
Being a leader is not about doing a victory dance. As leaders, do we ever reach the finish line? Do we ever stop wanting to change the world, make it a better place to live for those that are struggling, or helping someone else do the same? Of course not. Responsible leadership is about being gracious and seeing the big picture. It’s the desire to understand trumping the compulsion to win.
Some amazing conversations have been happening…let’s stay in the mess and keep the good struggle going.