One of the most important behaviors of a leader is to inspire a diverse group of people around a shared vision. I strongly believe that listening for understanding to diverse people, opinions and viewpoints strengths organizations and us as human beings. Or so I thought . . .
I was having lunch with a new acquaintance last week. We got to talking about the current political situation. I have some very strong opinions about our new president (which I will keep to myself here). I soon discovered that my lunch partner and I did not share the same opinions or perspectives. I was so shocked at her positions that I found myself shutting down and desperately wanting to change the subject. To her credit, she called me on it - all of my emotions flash on my face in an instant - I would be a lousy poker player.
The story I believe about myself is that I am open-minded, tolerant and actively seek opposing viewpoints that help me grow and learn. My reaction to my lunch partner flew in the face of this story. It caused me to question just how open-minded I am and my own value system. Which values do I hold are non-negotiable and which are open to changing?
Great leaders are self-aware about their values, strengths and beliefs. They are not afraid to communicate those beliefs, while at the same time are not afraid to be challenged. They also know which values are non-negotiable and how that position affects their relationships with others. The strength of my emotional reaction to my lunch partner's beliefs caught me so off guard that it made me realize I needed to step away from political news for a day or two and regain some perspective. I still believe in learning from others who don't believe the same things I do. Some lessons are much harder to hear than others.