Thoughts on Life & Leadership

A Junto Strategy Project

The end of meaningful debate.

toxic-wallpaperI was recently helping a Pepperdine colleague of mine with the data analysis portion of his dissertation. He has been tackling an interesting problem that he noticed was a major issue in his specific industry, namely candor.

One of the themes in his research was  the way in which a leader created or inhibited an environment where candor could thrive.  In his definition of creating an environment of candor, he noted that leaders develop a culture or environment of candor by “creating an opportunity within their team(s) and the people they interact with to exchange information without the fear of the leader negatively reacting.”

For those leaders and managers that successfully create this environment the business results are clear. Trust increases. Retention improves. Decision-making is accelerated. Employee performance is enhanced. And teams function at a much higher level.

The last phrase of that definition hit me most strongly – “exchange information without the fear of the leader negatively reacting.” Perhaps this phrase hit me more powerfully because election season is in full force and because of some of the recent social policy debates that seem to resemble shouting or shaming matches versus civil discourse.

As I have pondered those words on candor, I have begun to wonder if we are losing the ability to debate or achieve any level of candor on a range of issues (e.g., political, social, religious, business, etc.). We clamor for more transparency from politicians or for leaders who don’t hide their agenda. But the disturbing reality is that the toxic environment (which seems to be most evident in Washington) and lack of meaningful debate is a actually more of a reflection on us as a society than it is on the politicians that represent us or the leaders running our corporations.

Ghandi once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”

The best solution to this issue at the end of the day is a personal one where we change ourselves. So instead of making someone “an offender for a word,” we choose to create an environment where we can “exchange information [ideas and opinions] without the fear of the leader [neighbor, political opponent, etc.] negatively reacting.”

In such an environment of candor, we will be best position to solve the difficult challenges our society faces, identify breakthrough innovations that will change the world, build great companies and high performing organization, and create a society where all truly have a voice.

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This entry was posted on August 17, 2015 by in Leadership, Personal Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

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