It is difficult to miss what is happening across the United States right now with the recent tragic events in various states and in Dallas. As a human dynamic expert, seeing how those dynamics are playing out is both sad and reassuring as I witness the expression of the worst and the best of the human condition. It is also a time that calls for strong leadership and we are all seeing key examples of the difference that strong leadership can make.
Consider this contrast: On one hand, a community was rocked by unthinkable violence against police while they were doing their job to serve and protect. This community is now coming together in solidarity and compassion for one another, talking with one another instead of pointing fingers. Citizens are creating memorials outside of police headquarters; blue ribbons have been tied to mailboxes and trees, all to honor Law Enforcement. In other communities, we have demonstrations, unruly protests and more attacks against police. What is the difference? Strong leadership.
On the other hand, in a different state, a senior elected official publicly prejudged an incident that happened between a citizen and a police officer before any investigation into the incident could be completed. This type of communication from a leader gave rise to the incendiary emotions of some constituents, all but giving them the approval to continue the onslaught against the community and public safety officers. I doubt that was his intention.
Leaders inspire, they motivate positive action, and they encourage participation in solutions, not regurgitating the problem. Strong leadership is the consistent application of those characteristics. In his last lecture, Randy Pausch said, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” A leader’s behavior and the way in which he or she communicates have a direct impact on the success of their efforts. Being respectful with language, thoughtful in their approach and consistent in their effective demeanor, all contribute to the lasting strength and impact of a good leader.
In many communities, leaders are taking a proactive stance. They are choosing not to throw fuel on the fire but are calling on the best in people to navigate forward. In Dallas, officials have been working to be as transparent as they are able about their investigation to keep people informed. They have acknowledged the various challenges that exist between different entities. But rather than impeach anyone, they have acknowledged our common humanity and pledge to work collaboratively on addressing the tension in their city. This is an example of the strong leadership demonstrated by state officials such as the Dallas Mayor and the Dallas Chief of Police. It seems to be working. People hugging cops in Dallas at interfaith service
The differences in how leadership has unfolded in the hours and days after these tragic events can clearly be seen in the tone and interactions of the citizens and law enforcement. The attitudes of people, whether in a community or an organization, reflect leadership. While tragic, this example is instructive, and one that leaders might want to take note of and reflect on. One way law enforcement implements proactive leadership is through effective community policing efforts. This has a significant impact on how communities and law enforcement interface. It entails engaging with one another daily, in positive ways that help to build a foundation on which to stand when tensions rise and supports the effort of calling forth the best within the human dynamic during those times. It also allows for the opportunity to dispel the misperceptions that may exist about one another. And much of it boils down to communication: emotionally effective and intentional communication. Where are the opportunities for this type of communication in your organization or community?
It is important to remember that leadership is also an aspect of how each person lives his or her life. Every day, each one of us is presented with opportunities to lead, positively, proactively and intentionally. What choices are you making when opportunities for strong leadership call you?
Sue Kenfield specializes in transforming dysfunctional human dynamics within organizations, communities and with individuals. We empower people and organizations to maximize their performance by improving leadership, communication, and behavioral intelligence skills, driving down drama and dysfunction. Our work elevates performance, minimizes turnover and improves the bottom line through our behavioral intelligence consulting, leadership and team development, conflict management, and executive coaching programs. Sue Kenfield is also available as a speaker on the topics listed above. Contact us to learn more.