Leadership today seems frustrated and hard to find. I live in a city where public, elected, leaders are seemingly unable to claim a principled path to collaborate and design change in systems that are old and locked into contracts that presume a sacred pact. We promote tourism yet carefully shy away from the deep commitment that will literally upgrade and provide access to our old and lovely, very lovely, neighborhoods, the architecture, the parks, the religious and spiritual sanctuaries that people gravitate to for calm and peace. Mark Sanford, in the aftermath of Steve Scalise’s callous injuries, called out the “tenor of our times” that contributes to bully behavior and results in violence and deep fear among all of us.
Sanford stated that the behavior of our President offers, in part, permission to bully, to demand that others behave only in the ways in which we individually decide how we will act and talk and that this single minded approach to anything that gets in our way is unacceptable. Sanford is the guy who people like to deride because he fell into lust and lied about where he was when he preferred to be with his mistress, as we say, along an Appalachian trail when he was needed to serve as a Governor.
Yet Sanford is back in Congressional office, reelected after he agreed that his behavior was not quite right. And he offered a statement about the climate we live in right now, where anything we want to say or do is deemed acceptable yet pretend it has no impact. Ron Heifetz has conducted research for years that demonstrates what often happens to us when we become leaders and are readily removed from bearing the responsibility for our impact; data has shown how impervious we can become to how others see us, feel the impact of our words, and break ranks with our own sense of morality and virtue.
It’s up to each of us to monitor our impulses when angry or frustrated. I don’t live an isolated life; in fact, I thrive on connecting with others. My ideas are expanded and my senses are engaged in listening and understanding. As a result, I have a chance to absorb an idea that is new to me and think about it. I employ a pause when I want to judge more than I ever have before. I live in a community and I want to participate in a reasonable way. It’s hard right now because bad behavior is popular. But I’m not very interested in becoming less open and inclusive; I’m interested in moving forward, somehow, altogether. And, as a result, my restraint “toolkit” is getting a good workout.