My sadness about what is happening in America at the moment is deep and complex, as I’m sure yours is. I’m sad about the looting, the chaos, and the suffering it has caused. I’m sad—very sad—about the event that triggered it. I’m sad about the inherent inequities in our society that give rise to these events. It’s easy to point fingers in times like this—fingers at the police, fingers at the looters, fingers at the government, fingers at society.
But I find the most effective leadership response in a moment of crisis is to question myself.
How might I be allowing the image of other people—the way I see them at first glance—to influence or limit the way I experience their true identity as human-beings? I’m judgmental about the way people behave and the choices they make. But how might I be judgmental about people’s immutable characteristics, things they never chose?
I don’t consider myself to be racist. None of us consider ourselves to be racist or even biased. But how and where might I be wrong about myself? Do I seek people who are different from me, not just in how they look to the world but also in how they see and perceive the world? Do I learn from them and do I respect them in the way I respect anyone who teaches me? How am I experienced by others? Am I being truly inclusive? Or am I being patronizing? Do I elicit the opinions of people who I know have different perspectives from my own? How defensive do I become around people who question my perspectives?
There was a time when I thought that I could change the world. Then I realized I would be fortunate if I was able to change my country. As I grew older, I realized that wasn’t very likely. But if I could just change my community, that would be amazing. And then as I grew even older, I realized I would be fortunate if I could just change my family.
But now I realize the only entity over whom I truly have the power to affect change is myself. By changing myself, I can make changes in society. If I become more authentically open to difference, I will broaden my own perspectives. Subsequently, I’ll change myself, and from there I will affect change in the people around me and in the world.
To learn about how to Lead in the Moment during times of crisis, click here.