Integrity Matters
March 26, 2008

Enough with the fighting talk

Question: (E-334)

Seems candidates for public office feel compelled to tell us, over and over, that they are eager to "fight" for us. Their combative tone disturbs me.

Based upon their stories of battling on behalf of their constituents, one might assume they would carry hideous scars from wounds inflicted upon them by their sworn enemies - other elected officials. However, we elect them to work for us, represent us, guide us, inspire us - but fight? Our nation has a military that fights. So, what is the deal with the pugilistic language of these talkers? They get paid to discuss issues, refine laws and serve as advocates. Those assignments, really responsibilities, do not sound all that dangerous. And fighting, after all, should be a last resort, right?


Presidential candidates, at least this time around, seem to be promising to "fight" for me more than they ever have before. Just listen to them. Given our nation's current economic situation, our global image and the relatively low confidence the public has for many in government service, it seems they might not be very good fighters. So, on what basis should they keep their "fighting" jobs?

Maybe they should start by turning down the volume of their "battling" rhetoric.

Even kindergartners are taught to listen and not interrupt, and never to attack someone personally. They are taught to handle disagreements politely and graciously, and to only fight as a last resort - and, even then, to do so fairly.

My immediate advice for those who would want to be my leader, personally, professionally, politically and culturally: How about listening to me? It is unlikely that what I want or need is unique, or that my observations and complaints have not been heard before, but please dignify me with thoughtful and sincere attention. Not only do I deserve your respect and gracious attention, in many cases, I am paying for it. So, start by listening!

And, when you have assured me that you have heard me, reassure me, thank me and then help me. Stop with the "fighting" vocabulary! Effective leaders, including friends and family members, provide:

  • Vision and values (direction with appropriate behavior constraints).
  • Mission, Objectives and Goals (measurable milestones of success).
  • Tools (understanding, knowledge, skills and coaching).
  • Empowerment (encouragement and the freedom to succeed and fail).
  • Support - (financial, operational and emotional).

Simultaneously, they minimize the following:

  • Obstacles and barriers -real and perceived.
  • Bureaucracy that stifles innovation and initiative.
  • Uncertainty - resulting from lack of leadership.

Fighting is the activity of beasts. Humans, at their worst, do fight, but humans at their best listen carefully, discuss thoroughly and resolve productively, serving the common good graciously.



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