Over the past 10 years, I have been honored to explore and debate the essence of power with Dr. Tony Baron. Specifically, how power impacts leadership, how leadership impacts culture, and, ultimately, how culture impacts performance. With a double doctorate in psychology and theology and decades of executive coaching experience with Fortune 100 companies, you can imagine the depth and breadth that Tony adds to the subject.
By: Dr. Tony Baron
Nobody likes to be labeled. And nobody likes to be misunderstood. Given the context of our national dialogue recently, this may be a good time to talk about how to respond, instead of react, when we are misunderstood.
I am not talking about times when there is a lack of clarity in communication. I am talking about when others judge you based on misinformation they have received (or conceived) that results in them questioning your character.
The injustice hurts deeply. But, as leaders, our ultimate responsibility is to not to react, but to respond, by modeling the behavior we would like to see in others. It is a true test of how we use power. Will we use our position to force others to bend to our will? Or, will we use our position to practice the discipline of transformative leadership?
Here are four ways that you can practice transformative leadership and respond, rather than react, when others attack your character:
1. Practice the Discipline of Not Having the Last Word
A transformative leader influences others by modeling appropriate behavior not only in positive situations but also in periods of criticism. When people attack your character, they often want to engage you in a verbal volley. Don’t do it. Transformative leaders have the discipline to not have the last word.
2. Practice the Discipline of Humility
An attack on your character may immediately send you into defense mode. If you have power, you may be tempted to use that power to punish the person who is attacking you. However, a transformative leader must refrain from presuming you can silence another person, and refrain from letting others know how wronged you feel. Humility comes from the word “grounded.” A grounded person reflects deeply to see what truth may be in the midst of falsehoods, what path may be used for reconciliation, and what direction you need to follow.
3. Practice the Discipline of Civility
A transformative leader understands that people who attack their character often betray their own fears and anxieties in the process. When people spew words at you in anger, recognize the pain or anxiety behind their words. Pause to reflect before you engage, then practice the discipline of civility. In Reclaiming Civility in the Public Square, civility is defined as “claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”
4. Practice the Discipline of Wisdom
Knowledge is a compilation of things true, maybe true, and definitely not true. Knowledge can lead to pride and a sense of superiority over others. Wisdom, on the other hand, is insight into reality. Reality is the only thing a transformative leader can count on. People of wisdom seek reality – not illusions, innuendos, or ill feelings.
So, to those who feel you have been misunderstood, take courage in the midst of adversity. Seek reconciliation. Practice the discipline of not having the last word, humility, civility, and wisdom.
Question: Have you felt misunderstood recently? Which of these practices might help you respond instead of react?
Dr. Tony Baron is Distinguished Scholar-In-Residence at Center for Executive Excellence and an internationally recognized speaker, writer, corporate consultant, professor and the San Diego Director of Azusa Pacific University Graduate School of Theology.
Dr. Baron is the author of six books, including The Art of Servant Leadership and a workbook manual co-written with noted author and business leader Ken Blanchard. Throughout his career, he has worked with hundreds of companies including Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola Company, Warner Brothers Studios, and Boeing, among many others.