WISDOM LEADING: The Conversation

Weekly Wisdoms Blog

Fifty Shades of Gray

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

There are many sides to every issue. Said differently, reality comes in at least 50 shades of gray. Our views are colored by our experiences, morality and sense of ethics, and differ from those of others. Understanding this is a fundamental tenet of wisdom. Understanding this allows us to respect nuanced arguments and take diverse points of view into account before making decisions. Unfortunately, some in our culture approach discourse as extremists. Extremists see all things in black and white. Either you are with them or against them. If you don't love President Obama, you're a right-wing redneck. If you support gun control, you hate the Constitution. Extremist thinking breeds hardened fanatics who can't and won't compromise. We see its effects daily in the Middle East and in the U.S. Congress, but it's also a common phenomenon in organizations. When a leader's strongly held position is challenged by contradictory evidence or opposing preferences, the result can be anger, punitive action or chaos. Here's why. Extreme views are often camouflage for strong emotions, including (and especially) fear. An effective leader welcomes multiple points of view on a topic not only because s/he's not threatened by them but because s/he may actually be empowered by them. Conversely, extremists' deepest fear is that not only are their beliefs might be wrong, but that their very sense of self-worth is diminished if they are. They cloak that insecurity behind often boisterous irrationality and anger. One path toward cultivating wisdom is recognizing when your anger is a primitive reaction to one of your beliefs being questioned. A wise leader is constantly questioning his/her own views and inviting others to challenge them as well. Unlike the loud voice, it's the true sign of strength. I'm guessing you're up to the challenge. What are you doing to create an environment where all beliefs are openly, respectfully questioned?

There are many sides to every issue. Said differently, reality comes in at least 50 shades of gray. Our views are colored by our experiences, morality and sense of ethics, and differ from those of others. Understanding this is a fundamental tenet of wisdom. Understanding this allows us to respect nuanced arguments and take diverse points of view into account before making decisions.

Unfortunately, some in our culture approach discourse as extremists. Extremists see all things in black and white. Either you are with them or against them. If you don't love President Obama, you're a right-wing redneck. If you support gun control, you hate the Constitution.

Extremist thinking breeds hardened fanatics who can't and won't compromise. We see its effects daily in the Middle East and in the U.S. Congress, but it's also a common phenomenon in organizations. When a leader's strongly held position is challenged by contradictory evidence or opposing preferences, the result can be anger, punitive action or chaos.

Here's why. Extreme views are often camouflage for strong emotions, including (and especially) fear. An effective leader welcomes multiple points of view on a topic not only because s/he's not threatened by them but because s/he may actually be empowered by them. Conversely, extremists' deepest fear is that not only are their beliefs might be wrong, but that their very sense of self-worth is diminished if they are. They cloak that insecurity behind often boisterous irrationality and anger.

One path toward cultivating wisdom is recognizing when your anger is a primitive reaction to one of your beliefs being questioned. A wise leader is constantly questioning his/her own views and inviting others to challenge them as well. Unlike the loud voice, it's the true sign of strength. I'm guessing you're up to the challenge.

What are you doing to create an environment where all beliefs are openly, respectfully questioned?

0 Comments // Permalink

There are currently no comments for this entry.

These comments are closed.

1.28.13 0
Comments

Search The Blog

Recent Posts

Summer HiatusSpring, Summer, Fall and WinterCosmos and the Forgotten Power of WonderAmazon?s Fire Phone and the Death of ConnectionJune 28th, 1914

Categories

BusinessEducationHistoryQuotablesSportsWisdom Leading

Archives

August 2014July 2014June 2014May 2014April 2014March 2014February 2014January 2014December 2013November 2013October 2013September 2013August 2013July 2013June 2013May 2013April 2013March 2013February 2013January 2013December 2012November 2012October 2012September 2012August 2012July 2012June 2012May 2012April 2012March 2012February 2012January 2012December 2011November 2011October 2011
Return to Blog
Dr. Foster Mobley Blog RSS Feed
 

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