Leadership

Marching With Mistaken Identity


This past Saturday a historically massive event occurred. The Women’s March on Washington expanded to more than 600 gatherings in more than one hundred nations, with an untold number of participants who were united in their call for equality, opportunity, and justice for women and marginalized people across the United States and beyond.

Or were they?

The majority of what I saw reported by friends who participated, and mainstream media, was extremely positive. Empowered, aligned, and passionate people of various nationalities, faiths, genders, and political tendencies standing together for shared benefit for all. Many of my friends were so enthusiastic about their experiences that it can only be described as a profoundly spiritual event in their lives.

A smaller, but equally passionate number of posts talked about incidents of intimidation, conflict, vandalism, and violence. They described the marches as entirely partisan, offensive, and exclusive. 

I saw such dramatically conflicting reports and sentiments being expressed and shared on Facebook and other media that I was actually puzzled about what these marches were for and what happened at them.

There’s a lesson here that extends beyond the immediate season and the obvious impact of political preferences at play.

The rise of social media and the democratization of information through the internet was supposed to open our minds, increase our insight, and connect us more broadly. On Saturday, and quite often it seems, something like the opposite is happening. Ease of access, accompanied by an endless variety of inputs leaves most of us inevitably overwhelmed.

Faced with unmanageable volume we naturally resort to the safety of what is familiar and give preference to what affirms our preconceptions. The energy required to fairly consider contrary views is lost to the whirlwind and we are drawn to whatever confirms our bias. The wideness of the frontier chases us back into the safety of our caravans. This is only multiplied by the dastardly presence of provocateurs who love to cause controversy and fan opposition with their pointed snark and hyperbole.

Leaders in particular need to be wary of the echo chamber. Whether its on the political level or simply in the relative scale of our organizations the tendency is for us to hunker down and feed on what makes us feel correct and confident.

The discipline of doubt is all too rare.

The skill of brokering reconciliation for a higher purpose is becoming a most desirable and powerful asset. I have a lot to learn about recognizing my own assumptions and resisting the temptation to prove myself right and demean anyone who dares disagree. My vulnerability to reinforce my version of truth and dismiss whatever doesn’t fit my perspective is dangerous.

How do you ensure that you are thinking about¬†what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, even when (especially when) it doesn’t fit your natural narrative?

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