Breaking down barriers

We seemed to have lost our compass these days. We have far too many people looking for ways to divide or differentiate, and are far too few who are having success in breaking down barriers. Or, maybe it is our so-called leaders or “wanna-be leaders,” who are not showing much leadership. While we should value diversity, in many respects, the more we learn about one another, the more we seem to be the same.

At the end of the day, people want opportunity. They want their families to be safe, secure and nourished. They want to find a loved one or a group that can become their family or kinship. They want to be dealt with fairly and want to do the same with others. They expect our leaders to promote social welfare and security, not be the reason it does not exist.

Poor leaders sell fear. They demonize and differentiate. They fall short of the aspirations of their religious texts. Poor leaders take too much credit, patting themselves on the back too much “saying look how great I am.” Better leaders do the opposite or less of the former. They are inclusive and want people to prosper. In the words of FDR, “we do well, when we all do well.”

Yet, this cannot fall to our leaders alone. We need to celebrate our dot connectors. These are the folks who connect people in a variety of ways. These are the folks who seek common ground, not looking to divide. These are the folks who see first hand how similar we are. These informal leaders are as or even more important than our formal ones. They are more trusted and advocate for people. They are our compasses.

As we interact in our daily lives, I want you to recognize the dot connectors you know. They may be someone in your religious group. They may be an ardent volunteer who helps people in need. They may be a colleague who is always creating employee interactions. They may be someone online, who people gravitate toward, as the dot connector can find some good in others or some form of connection. Emulate these compasses. They break down barriers.

As for the fear sellers and mongers, reduce your exposure to these folks. Do not vote for them either, as they are the exact opposite of good leadership. Just because someone has success, does not necessarily make them a good leader. Businesses make this mistake all the time, promoting a successful seller to a leadership role only to see them fail.

Let’s find our compasses and appreciate what they do. And, let’s be like them and not the fear sellers.


22 thoughts on “Breaking down barriers

  1. Isn’t the promotion of a person to a role he or she is not prepared to play called “the Peter Principle”? I have seen that at work countless times. But, at the same time, we must differentiate on occasion in order to recognize those who deserve high praise and stand out from the crowd. In the end, as you say, our similarities as a human race outweigh our differences. Good post!

    • Hugh, it is indeed called “The Peter Principle.” In these cases, which are not rare at all, a successful sales person is promoted to be a manager or leader under the premise the person can impart his knowledge. It is also not rare, that managing people and not leading sales, is something they do not relish and can be contrary to what makes them a good salesperson.

      As for your comment on differentiation, yes we should recognize those who deserve high praise. Success should be rewarded. But, we need to make sure we recognize all types of success as often it is a team result, with some deserving lesser credit, while certain folks deserving more. Poor leaders may take more of the credit.

      True story. We had a group that was very good at what they did and revenue grew, often in spite of the boss who tooted his own horn. We learned he told others in the firm what a great job he had done harnessing the stallions and it was his leadership that led to the success. That is a stretch.

      Thanks for your comments, Keith

      • Another true story: I was at one time chair of our department, coach of a winning tennis team, director of the Honors Program, author of a dozen books, and teaching a full class load. That was fairly normal for me for most of my 37 years. When I retired I was handed a framed certificate thanking me for 37 years of service, as was everyone else who retired after 37 years. I know how it feels to work your ass off and not be recognized! It hurts. It still does.

      • Hugh, when true performers feel slighted, that is a grave disservice. The university was fortunate you did not leave, as that is a common result. When companies or organizations reduce salary increase budgets, the high performers get hurt the most. Thanks for sharing your story, Keith

  2. Wow, Keith! What a powerful “speech”. I hope you get a chance to speak again! Only together we are strong. The world needs leaders who understand and support this. Leaders, who are able to motivate people for goals that serve the well being of all.

    • Kim, these are obscene numbers. Have you seen the John Oliver “Last Week Tonight,” where he focuses on the prosperity church evangelists and how they ask for “seed money” so their followers can make money. The seed money requests never stop and the followers oblige.

      Several of these so called ministers bragged on camera that they bought multiple jets, houses, etc. in cash. They are the ones who prosper. The show made me ill. Thanks for sharing this. Keith

      • There’s a minister in the neighborhood I grew up. He was a congressmen for a few years with a lot of clout with the number of parishioners in at the church. He was just about running NYC. I think it was Giuliani who brought him a Burger King that would be a separate income from the church. He built a cathedral. He brought the stores across from the cathedral. He build senior citizens housing and low income housing. He was a ladies man and he judged people but not against himself because he could do wrong. You do not speak unkindly about this man because just about everyone is one of his parishioners. But he has cleaned the neighborhood and tries to help the community. A few months ago remember this church refused to bury a woman because she had fallen behind in her tithes?

      • Kim, this is an age old problem. Because someone does good as a leader, he feels it gives him a hall pass to benefit himself. It is unfortunate as many who do this start out with an enviable mission and get corrupted along the way. Jim Bakker of the PTL Club is a good example. Thanks, Keith

  3. Note to Readers: I have written about this on several occasions, but a good example of breaking down barriers is the work of Martin Luther King and Gandhi, with their civil disobedience. They clearly made known their stands against injustice, yet used passive, civil disobedience to galvanize public opinion. We should honor both as we honor MLK tomorrow, as the American followed the example of Gandhi. Both are among the greatest of heroes ever to walk the planet and neither fired a shot.

    • Lisa, from the nature of your blog, you indeed are a dot connector. Thanks for using your humor and wit to reach folks. Thanks for doing what you do and stopping by here. Keith

  4. I just had to share this paragraph on my FB page. I was pretty sure you wouldn’t mind.
    Poor leaders sell fear. They demonize and differentiate. They fall short of the aspirations of their religious texts. Poor leaders take too much credit, patting themselves on the back too much “saying look how great I am.” Better leaders do the opposite or less of the former. They are inclusive and want people to prosper. In the words of FDR, “we do well, when we all do well.”

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