Dorothy Burton is President of Christians In Public Service. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed belong solely to the author. They are not and do not necessarily reflect the opinion(s) or position(s) of the organization, board of directors, and/or any other individual(s) or entity (ies) affiliated or unaffiliated with Christians In Public Service, Inc. | firstname.lastname@example.org
I majored in Mass Communications/Journalism as an undergraduate and the number one thing we learned about the art of communication, was to make sure the message was clear, accurate, and sent in a way that could not only be understood but received.
We are living in a new era of social media, digital communication, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. Cell phones have become personal video cameras in every hand with so many hands looking to make or turn a buck at the expense of another.
Adults really did use to be the adults in the room. But now, given the opportunity to star in their own video, many are turning their cell phones into weapons of mass destruction to grow followers, boost notoriety regardless of the damage to others, and become social media stars and influencers.
School board meetings have turned into torture chambers for many trustees with some of their own colleagues acting as master torturers. There was a local school board meeting recently that turned into an absolute zoo because the board president made one of his colleagues an item on the agenda to be used as target practice by those with a private beef; and, by those in the audience who were spoiling for a fight based upon what they had heard to be true.
The trustee aptly and publicly called it a "witch hunt." Only the president of the board could confirm or deny it since he never bothered to do what true leaders do - communicate the problem to the one perceived to be the source of the problem and talk it out as leaders. This is how mature adults and certainly those in leadership should roll.
The examples many are setting who are in positions of leadership, are damaging and will cause damage that will exceed their terms of service. Many points to be made appear to be no points at all to be made other than "I have the power and what I say or don't say goes. And I can humiliate, denigrate and disrespect you if I want." And they will have their cheering sections there to cheer them on.
No matter the collateral damage to the governing body, the community served, or others watching. Working relationships should be built on foundations of professional courtesy and trust shared among colleagues to not denigrate or with intentionality tear down, destroy, or demean.
Communication is key to any relationship and certainly key to how well or how poorly colleagues can work together for the betterment of the communities they represent. Common courtesy should be modeled and practiced by the one sitting in the big chair whether that be the mayor or school board president.
The ability to lead well is directly tied to the ability to communicate well even with those with whom one may personally dislike. Likes and dislikes are the ruling factors in many school board chambers and city council chambers and vendettas set many agendas.
Many have said the "fight" is now at the local level. What fight? Whose fight? As leaders the fight should not be against one another or parents or teachers or citizens, but rather the fight should be for the betterment of the community.
In order to have healthy communities, whether that be work communities or communities within cities or school districts there must first be respect. Not admiration, but respect. It doesn't matter if one is not liked by the president or mayor or other colleagues. The very fact that that person is sitting as an elected representative means that their constituency liked them enough to elect them. And it is up to the leader of the board or council to respect them.
Elected leadership isn't a matter of who loves whom, it is a matter of who wins or loses. And it is up to the adults in the room, particularly the leader to ensure that all members of the board or council are treated with respect, with the leader doing what a leader is supposed to do -- taking the lead by showing the way.
We need to learn how to talk with one another again and not at or about one another. Especially to publicly ridicule or destroy. Bad behavior filters down but good leadership spreads throughout. Communication is key. No one likes to be ridiculed, talked down to, or disrespected. And with so many now in leadership and vying to lead, trying to either protect their turf or make a name for themself, it is going to take extraordinary leaders with extraordinary maturity and communications skills to right the ship.
So many ships are sinking; or, are on choppy waters. Schools board ships, city council ships, America's ship. What will it take? It will take leaders with the fortitude and foresight to understand that every one of their colleagues, whether they like them or not is their equal. That they too have been elected and while issues may be miles apart, it is incumbent upon the leader to find the right vehicle to traverse the proverbial miles across the divide.
And it begins with a simple conversation. Not talking around, at, or about, but with. Social media makes it easier today to dismiss and dislike others simply by what they post or what is posted about them. True leaders have the ability and will to look beyond all of that and will do as Abraham Lincoln once did.
Someone once rubbed Mr. Lincoln the wrong way and he said, "I don't like that man, I must get to know him better." That should be the attitude of every leader in this new and divisive era.
Leaders lead. They also lead the way by showing the way to others. Even those they don't like. Get to know them better and it begins with communication.
Published on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 @ 10:37 AM CDT