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Compromise: A Four-Letter Word?

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

With the New Year comes the looming fight over the debt ceiling. You know the basics: Congress must authorize an increase in the debt the U.S. can take on so we can pay our bills. What strikes me about the current situation is the refusal of anyone to compromise. Each side insists they are acting in good faith while claiming the other is being intractable. At its most basic level, the obvious problem is that everybody thinks of the situation in terms of winning and losing. It's not about doing what's right but humiliating the other side. It's a zero-sum game played by combatants for whom compromise equals surrender...a four-letter word in today's political culture. The great statesman Edmund Burke said, "All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter." He knew that a wise leader does not intimidate, bully or command others into doing things his or her way, but finds solutions that work for as many stakeholders as possible. Winning then, isn't about wielding power, but resolving problems in service of your constituents and your commitments. Some unsolicited advice to Congress: how about replacing that four letter word with a six letter word, like listen? Or an eight letter word like consider? Or, how about this...the ultimate four letter word? Lead. What about you? Do you see compromise as wisdom or weakness?

With the New Year comes the looming fight over the debt ceiling. You know the basics: Congress must authorize an increase in the debt the U.S. can take on so we can pay our bills.

What strikes me about the current situation is the refusal of anyone to compromise.

Each side insists they are acting in good faith while claiming the other is being intractable. At its most basic level, the obvious problem is that everybody thinks of the situation in terms of winning and losing. It's not about doing what's right but humiliating the other side. It's a zero-sum game played by combatants for whom compromise equals surrender...a four-letter word in today's political culture.

The great statesman Edmund Burke said, "All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter." He knew that a wise leader does not intimidate, bully or command others into doing things his or her way, but finds solutions that work for as many stakeholders as possible. Winning then, isn't about wielding power, but resolving problems in service of your constituents and your commitments.

Some unsolicited advice to Congress: how about replacing that four letter word with a six letter word, like listen? Or an eight letter word like consider? Or, how about this...the ultimate four letter word? Lead.

What about you? Do you see compromise as wisdom or weakness?

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Dr. Foster Mobley

Trusted advisor and coach to admired executives globally for 3 decades, Thought leader on wisdom-based approaches to breakthrough leading, "Lead Coach" for Deloitte's experienced and high potential leader development, Team performance advisor to two NCAA championship teams