Deconstructing the White House: Election Leadership Lessons
How do we deconstruct what happened in last night’s US elections?
Start by imagining a bucolic Connecticut childhood home. I grew up in a white shingled house with black ersatz shutters and a well-manicured, expansive lawn.
Inside the modest abode, our true colors flew. My Dad, a World War II veteran, spent most nights at the kitchen table. He often ruminated about the good old days over one too many beers. The world was in decline, and the USA was under some invisible siege.
Although I loved and admired my Dad’s work ethic and intellect, I avoided those kitchen table conversations at all costs. He had harsh words to describe Japanese, Blacks, Polish, and Mexicans–words I could never imagine sharing here. My brother followed in his footsteps, growing up to become a very conservative voter and hardworking professional.
After averting too many racist, fear-laden kitchen table conversations, I made a conscious choice to create a different life. Now happily separated from several of my racist family members, I’ve never looked back.
You already know where I’m going with this story: My blood family stories foreshadowed the silent majority who voted for our current president-elect. The people with the ostensibly satisfying lifestyles and decent jobs. The citizens who, like my parents, act as if everything is fine, while their fears and insecurities reach a silent inner boiling point.
What’s different from my days growing up in the little white house? The patina of perfection is gone. The shine of the American Dream has lost its luster. And, as leaders, we must pick up the pieces after a messy 24 month shouting match.
This morning, Gloria Borger, a CNN political pundit, said that “Trump has torn off the Band-Aid and exposed the wound.” She’s right. Now that we have seen the scab, caterwauled, and unglued ourselves from our favorite social channels, what can we do?
- Accept what just happened. Posting our sadness, regret, anger, and vitriol on Facebook has to stop soon. And it will. I spent the morning meditating, folding laundry, and crying. I wanted to get this historic moment behind me.
- Channel disillusionment and confusion towards something positive. I just registered for IssueVoter.org. This free platform sends alerts before every proposed bill, presents the pros and cons, and sends my position to my elected officials, and tracks the outcomes.
- Engage youth in political conversations. This includes your millennial employees. Educate them on how government works, and ask them how they are feeling about the future. Be empathetic. Invite them to fight the temptation to foster groupthink and deride people who disagree with them.
- If you are a parent, a community leader, a sports coach, or a teacher, explain to our children how committed we are to keeping them safe from harm. Host a “take your son/daughter/niece/nephew to work” day, and show them new possibilities for their own future.This is our moment to model civility and critical thinking.
One of my favorite aphorisms regarding the power of critical thinking comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald:
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time and still have the ability to function.”
- Re-evaluate your customer and competitive strategies. What are you doing to open the conversation floodgates for your new customers as well as your unhappy ones? What percentage of your week is spent reaching out directly to those “on the fence” customers and prospects? What are their emotional experiences with your products and services? How often are you conducting loss analyses? In sales driven cultures, we revel in the triumphs, and, like my blood family, squelch the losses.
The government is not going to save us. They are not our moral compass; however, they are a reflection of our inner work.
This moment in history, and how we react to it, will teach us something new about ourselves. They will foster self-awareness and reflection, making us more informed, grounded, competitive leaders.
It’s time to return to work with a fresh pair of eyes.
The whitewashed home and perfectly manicured lawn no longer define us; they simply inform us.
Copyright 2016, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.