There are those who thrive on and in chaos. I have known people who always seem to be involved in one controversy or another, and today you do not have to look very far to find it. Don’t worry, even if you are not looking for it, it will find you. I think we need to make every effort to squash controversy as quickly as we can.
Controversy is different from disagreement. Disagreement accompanied by respectful dialog can be quite healthy. But controversy is poison—it comes with little desire to remedy the situation. The goal is to highlight and maintain the chasm between people. Controversy kills relationships and is rooted in bitterness toward one another.
Leading in this culture of cancellation and controversy can be tough. There is little desire to walk a mile in another’s shoes or to try to see each other’s perspectives. This is not a political issue, but rather a human relations issue. And one person can’t fix the problem. But as leaders, we can influence our little part of the world. I think we have a duty to create a peaceful, respectful work environment where people can come together to do their jobs.
A pessimistic view of the role of a leader is to diffuse controversy, but I prefer a more positive objective: to pursue peace.
If you are a leader, whether formally or informally, ask yourself if your actions, words, and attitude foster peace or contribute to controversy. We can’t expect a peaceful culture or effect change in our organizations if we don’t start with ourselves.
You may want to associate what I am saying as “woke,” but I will argue that this is the opposite of “wokeness.” I believe that what is the right thing to do may not be the fair thing. I strongly believe that we should seek peace and be kind to one another, but that does not mean we have to stop being effective in our jobs. There are people who depend on us to do what we must do. There are processes in place to ensure that the job is done correctly, so if someone perceives unfairness in the process, we can and should have a respectful discussion about that, but the discussion must remain respectful on both sides, and a decision must be made.
If the “new” perspective brought forth creates a compelling reason for change, then we have an opportunity to broaden our own perspective and see something we didn’t before. At the same time, if the “unfairness perspective” brought forth does not create a compelling reason for change, there is an opportunity for that person to broaden his or her perspective. If they choose not to accept the leader’s rationale, then they run the risk of becoming bitter and creating some form of controversy around the perceived unfairness.
Mutual respect and tolerance for one another are essential for the leadership role of peacemaker. But so is a conviction to do what is right.
Defining what is right for you company should be easy because you have given great thought to your corporate mission, vision, and value statements, correct? They are your business’ moral compass and the test by which all operational decisions should be weighed.