WISDOM LEADING: The Conversation

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We have met our ally, and he is us

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, History, Wisdom Leading

The famous line from the Pogo comic strip goes, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." The above variation seems apt only a few days after the terrible bombing at the Boston Marathon. This awful event has left many people shaken and angered. But where they see fear, I see cause for hope. Terrorism is unique among the tactics of war in that it doesn't seek to destroy the enemy directly. Instead, it seeks to sow fear, panic, paranoia and hysteria in its victims and make them destroy themselves. In a terrorist's mind, a perfect attack would lead to riots, arrests of suspicious individuals, economic collapse and the breakdown of civil society. That's not what happened after Boston. If you watch the footage, dozens of people ran toward the explosion-toward harm-to help those caught in the blast. Runners who had just run 26 miles ran two more to Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood. All over the city, people rushed to get back to their lives even as they sent leads to authorities and showed support for the victims. That's the opposite of panic and hysterical violence. That's courage, reason, restraint and love at work. Part of wisdom lies in knowing that we have the capacity to be both our own worst enemies and best allies-and to be aware of the times when we're on the verge of letting fear take over. In our organizations as well as our communities, we can react to adverse events either with panic and rage or with calm and compassion. Which we choose determines much about whether we succeed or fail. Is your organization more prone to panic or positive action?

The famous line from the Pogo comic strip goes, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." The above variation seems apt only a few days after the terrible bombing at the Boston Marathon. This awful event has left many people shaken and angered. But where they see fear, I see cause for hope.

Terrorism is unique among the tactics of war in that it doesn't seek to destroy the enemy directly. Instead, it seeks to sow fear, panic, paranoia and hysteria in its victims and make them destroy themselves. In a terrorist's mind, a perfect attack would lead to riots, arrests of suspicious individuals, economic collapse and the breakdown of civil society.

That's not what happened after Boston. If you watch the footage, dozens of people ran toward the explosion-toward harm-to help those caught in the blast. Runners who had just run 26 miles ran two more to Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood. All over the city, people rushed to get back to their lives even as they sent leads to authorities and showed support for the victims. That's the opposite of panic and hysterical violence. That's courage, reason, restraint and love at work.

Part of wisdom lies in knowing that we have the capacity to be both our own worst enemies and best allies-and to be aware of the times when we're on the verge of letting fear take over. In our organizations as well as our communities, we can react to adverse events either with panic and rage or with calm and compassion. Which we choose determines much about whether we succeed or fail.

Is your organization more prone to panic or positive action?

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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