In the past few months, my travels have taken me from the top of the Eastern U.S. to the Deep South. I went from the very city in which the American Revolution took place – to the part of the country where only a few decades ago – the battle for civil rights was waged. This presented me with an unbelievable opportunity to examine the lives and actions of so many of the finest leaders that America has ever seen. I was also fortunate to have the time to reflect on what it means to be in a revolution.
Although there were nearly two hundred years between the two, the American Revolution and the civil rights movement had many similarities. They both represented uprisings to fight oppression and tyranny. The participants of both risked their safety, their families and everything they owned. Those that took part were courageous and stood up for what they believed in, instead of just accepting what was wrong.
This introspection led me to these self reflections:
> “What would it be like to live in fear for the life of myself and my loved ones?”
> “Would I have the courage to fight against oppression?”
> “Would I still participate if it was for someone else, but not for me?”
> “Would I fight to right a wrong?”
For many of us who have these same questions, its easy to ask ourselves, “Would we…?” However, a more valid question is, “Should we…?” In the lack of true oppression and tyranny, very often we create our own turmoil within the workplace. All too frequently, people are willing to take on a battle that may not be for the right reasons. Before leading a revolution within an organization, people should take a step back and ask these questions. We need to make sure we are fighting for the right reasons, not just because someone else is doing it.
Some simple ways to accomplish a peaceful workplace instead of a revolution are to:
1.Pick Your Battles. Before staging an uproar over every perceived slight, take a moment to honestly appraise the situation. Are you posturing to right a wrong or just to be an agitator? Is this a minor issue that could be resolved with open communication? Issues such as harassment, discrimination and bullying are absolutely worth taking a stand over. Matters such as the type of coffee creamer or the paint colors in the lobby are not.
2.Choose Your Allies Wisely. Before you valiantly charge into the fray on behalf of your colleague, remember that there are always two sides to every story. Base your decisions on facts, not reckless passion. The self-perceived victim very well may have deserved the punishment they received. Also, the level of discipline and the manner in which it was delivered may be very different from the tale you are told.\
3.You Can’t Keep Dying on Your Sword. One only has so many lives to give. If you are the eternal crusader, eventually you will begin to lose credibility. Voicing your opinions, concerns and beliefs in values should be a currency that you spend very wisely. If you rebel over every decision that comes from the top, you will become known as a constant complainer. Although standing for your principles may seem glorious, make sure they are ones that count, rather than the petty kind.
Reflect today on your current work environment. Remember that work doesn’t have to be drudgery and should be enjoyed. On your personal development of leadership, you may have trials. How you handle them will mean the difference between promotions and leadership opportunities, versus staying stuck where you no longer wish to be. This is just one short discussion about the art of being a leader of the many more I hope to have with you. Until next month…