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Michele Hunt

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Bullying In the Public Discourse Is Not Leadership

Posted: 03/14/2012 2:03 pm

Max De Pree, former CEO of Herman Miller constantly reminded those of us who served on the leadership team that "Leadership is a serious meddling in other people's lives". When I got too full of myself and used my position to dismiss or exclude people, Max would pull me aside and whisper: "Leaders don't inflict pain, they bear it". Those lessons took root.

I feel compelled to write about what I can only characterize as the "Bullying" that is going on in the presidential race and in the U.S. Congress. Many are literally using the "bully pulpit" -- to bully. They have gone far beyond political jostling -- they are dampening the collective spirit of our country. We deserve better. Leaders need to be reminded that spreading hate and fear sets a poor example for our young people. Public servant leaders have an added responsibility to aspire to be role models whose high standards of behavior inform and inspire us all -- especially our future leaders.

I believe that people who are graced with the opportunity to stand on the public platform at the highest realms of public service have an awesome responsibility to serve the people. For a leader to authentically serve, particularly in democratic societies, they must respect, value and care about "We, The People." They don't have to agree with the plethora of different points of views, but they do need to have the strength and moral character to be civil and kind. They also need to have the intellect and conviction to convey their values and beliefs in a manner that lifts people rather than demeans and divides.

Conversely, "We, The People", have the critical responsibly and accountability to expect and require those who "We" allow to lead us (or aspire to do the same) -- to be authentic leaders. The social media has become a powerful tool for people to hold leaders accountable, so there is no need to tolerate the abusive behavior we are seeing in the presidential race and in Congress in the U.S. People around the world are standing up against abusive, negative leadership. We are at a point in our evolution where the majority of us around the world know and understand that "We" all deserve better. Whether your beliefs are to the left, the right or the middle -- we all deserve better!

There are countless examples where millions have expressed their frustration and disapproval through the social media. "We, the People" have a responsibility (and a powerful tool) to speak up -- and how do we do that? Every time you hear someone who is bullying on the bully pulpit -- speak up! Express yourself on Facebook, Twitter, or your email list. If you don't have access to the Internet -- call your children and/or grandchildren and have them post your ideas.

Our attitudes contribute to the national mood -- and mood matters. Attitude affects our individual and collective behavior. We cannot recover from our current state with the collective mindset we hold today. We have become pessimistic, fearful and divisive. These emotions drain us of the energy it takes to renew, restore and flourish. To garner the collective energy to create the future we want for our children and ourselves, requires that we change our attitude. It is time to reclaim our positive, innovative, "can do" mentality. We need leaders who have the courage to be positive, visionary and inspirational.

I am optimistic. I believe that most people are basically goodhearted, however those who scream the loudest or spout the most divisive, hurtful messages get the most press coverage. It has been difficult for the goodhearted, empathetic voices to be heard in the mass media. This has given people the false impression that the majority of people are mean, full of fear and don't care about the greater good.

It is time for the goodhearted to step forward; the future of the world depends on our collective leadership. We don't have to wait for a formal leader; we now have the tools to individually and collectively express ourselves. It is our right and responsibility to let our voices be heard.

Let's stop the bullying and shift the national mood to a more positive, caring, constructive collective mindset. A deaf and blind women born in the late 1800s who became a prolific writer, teacher and women's rights advocate put it so well: "Believe, no pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit". -- Helen Keller