Despite the lack of civil discourse in these partisan times, we all have a choice as to how we show up in our communities and workplaces. We can either accept that this incivility is the new normal and that there’s nothing to be done, or we can actively behave in a more conciliatory and compassionate manner.
Leading with principals such as integrity, honesty, compassion, courage, accountability and vulnerability is unfortunately absent in many of our current leaders in both business and politics.
But this doesn’t mean we have to follow their example. Instead, we can choose to model the behaviors we expect in them and hold them accountable to follow our lead. To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, be the change you wish to see in others.
Regardless of where you’re situated in the org chart of your organization, you can demonstrate leadership fundamentals. This has nothing to do with the number of people reporting to you or the number of followers you have. Leaders are found throughout our communities and workplaces, though they may not appear so on the surface.
Real leaders are the people who bring about the best in others. They motivate and inspire others. They bring about positive change. They hold themselves accountable. And they grow other leaders.
When you model these leadership fundamentals in your community or workplace, you will be seen as someone who is respected and can be relied upon. You will be seen as a real leader and not someone who was merely hired, promoted or voted into such a position. Real leadership is not appointed but earned.
You can also choose to hold accountable those leaders who have been hired, promoted or voted into such a position. This means deliberately choosing to work only for leaders you admire and respect. It means actively supporting and promoting the real leaders into acknowledged positions of authority. And it means actively supporting and voting for only the candidates who demonstrate the leadership fundamentals that you believe in.
Sitting on the sidelines, playing the victim, or remaining apathetic is not acceptable. If you are unhappy with your situation in your community or workplace, it is up to you to do something about it. A passive approach results in the status quo.
If you could only take one step today, I urge you to learn to be kinder and more compassionate to other people. It takes very little to do this, and you will be part of the change I suspect you wish to see in the world. This can be as little as:
- Use a turn signal well before you reach the intersection where you intend to turn.
- Hold the door open for the person behind you when entering a building.
- Have a meaningful face-to-face conversation rather than merely a text exchange.
- Assume the best when you receive an email message that could be perceived otherwise.
- Look up from your phone, take out your earbuds, and make eye contact.
- Listen to others with your full and undivided attention in order to be fully present.
These small steps will slowly help return civility to our society and will reflect well on you. I suspect you also begin to feel better about yourself as you become more active in helping to bring about the positive change you want to see in others.
When you model respectful civil discourse and leadership fundamentals in your own behavior, you are more likely to encourage others to do so. You are more likely be respected and seen as a real leader. And you will be a part of the solution rather than a continuation of the problem.