[November 23, 2014] Over the past few months, we have witnessed leaders of several countries who failed decisively to unite their nation. Socialist leaders do a better job although they typically use brute force – or threat of force – to achieve that end. Political leaders in democratic nations generally have a more difficult environment to achieve that desired outcome. Regardless of the country or size of an organization, creating unity is a universally recognized trait of great senior leadership.
Today, among most nations, none are involved with any serious threat to the existence of statehood. Most of the Americas and European nations are good examples where the citizenry lacks a desired level of unity. Many have economic, social, and political problems. Descent into disunity is simply too easy for a democratic nation or organization. While much of this is inherent in their makeup, and while it can be a good thing, the disunity is costly.
What are the necessary ingredients senior leaders must exercise to create unity?
- Exercise of Good Judgment. Most difficult and requiring extensive/relevant experience to learn is the ability to recognize the best way to do things that will bring their population together. Many leaders fail here; in particular when all their choices appear to them as bad.
- Great People Skills. Understanding human psychology, exercising respect for others, great communications, and possessing the ability to “connect” to people are a necessary start. People they lead need to feel that their leaders understand their circumstances and are on their side.
Are these the only two ingredients? Well, no. There are many more … but these are the two that, if absent, unity cannot exist. I wrote about some of these in an earlier post (link here). Without both, the right decisions will not be made and people will not be convinced the right decision is being made.
The U.S. President this past week used his legal decision-making power, called Executive Action, to allow 5 million illegal (undocumented) immigrants to stay legally in the United States.1 Whether this decision was an exercise of good judgment is being debated vigorously. But the majority of people believe the decision is not the right one. Thus, there is disunity in the U.S. that is currently poisoning the atmosphere of future cooperation and spilling over into other areas where collaboration is needed. While the impact of the president’s action is not yet fully clear, what we do know is this will continue to generate greater disunity in the United States.
Great leaders, those leaders who are known for uniting people, are careful to use good judgment and their people skills to communicate the importance of that judgment. Often, the judgment is poorly communicated; making unity difficult and uneven. This is common in a common theme of democracy and is both good for its development and angst for its people. Interestingly, democracies remain the light to which most still aspire.
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