Competition seems embedded in nearly every facet of American life. We embrace sports of every kind and at every age. In recent years television prime time has been flooded with competitive singing, dancing, and other realty-shows that showcase winning. Business success is often measured by how well a product or service beats the competition.
Is it any wonder the halls of leadership have been populated with theories and strategies for coming out on top? Can a leader be both forceful and benevolent? Must every decision or action a leader makes contribute to this culture of winning?
One reason competition is so appealing might be connected to our ego’s need to feel included or justified. Excluding someone, proving we are right, or putting another person in their place feels like a win.
What if leaders embraced the notion that being strong is really about creating a motivating environment for others, defining a vision, being faithful to one’s principles or values, and modeling a vigorous defense of the truth?
Suppose leaders were more accepting of different opinions, showed love to those they serve, were interested in the needs of others, and showed kindness and generosity on a regular basis?
A sign of mature leadership is a recognition that competition and power create separation. The best leaders understand that we are all connected through the mystery of spirit. We are more alike than different. Including others and their opinions or ideas strengthens this bond.
Leadership is not a competition, regardless of how it might be portrayed in our culture, education, and political systems. We need more ways to understand and appreciate the truth others have to offer, even those we view as enemies.
It won’t be easy but I hope more leaders will welcome this way of thinking into their workplaces and boardrooms. Thomas Merton once said, “We are already one.” Maybe we should begin to act like it.