Enemies Define Our Leadership

February 16, 2010

enemyOur enemies are those who consistently put their self-interest above our shared purpose. Enemies are not those that fall short in their continued pursuit of the shared purpose, but those that either cloak themselves in the rhetoric of purpose as their behavior reveals their true intentions, or those that openly oppose the purpose in both word and deed.

We have to take a stand against these enemies of our shared purpose. Our enemies present us with the clear choice to stand up or to shrink back and hide; consequently, our enemies define us as courageous followers and purposeful leaders. Let me suggest the following four ways that our enemies define us:

1.  What we are willing to stand for.

If you have no enemies, it’s because you don’t stand for anything worth struggling for. All the great leaders throughout history had enemies because they all stood for something they believed was worthy. I’ve worked with and for so many people that were content to go about their days avoiding any and all conflict. Their silence in our conflict with those that put self-interest above purpose is itself a stand with the opposition. These folks are de facto enemies of the purpose because if they are not with us, they are against us.  Our task as leaders is give people a shared purpose worth standing for, then to eliminate all excuses of ignorance and ambivalence and move them to declare what they stand for.

2. Who we stand up to and when we stand up.

We can’t just stand for the right thing when it is easy. We have to be willing to stand up to anyone at anytime the shared purpose is at stake. The toughest stands will come against those that have more position power. The stakes in those stands are higher, and our adversaries will use the rhetoric of conformity – questioning our respect and loyalty – in an effort to get us to “sit down and shut up.” If that does not work, they will employ other tactics to intimidate or discourage us. Expect it, and be prepared to shed some blood, sweat, and tears. It’s in battles with these folks that the war for the shared purpose is won or lost. We won’t win every battle, but we can’t win the war if we are not willing to fight every battle. Everyone that compromises the shared purpose is worthy of confrontation.

3.  How we stand.

Even as they debase us, we are never relieved of the responsibility to continually care for and about our enemies. With professionalism, courage, transparency, patience and persistence, our aim is to bring the egocentric back in line with the shared purpose. Severing a relationship is something that should occur only in extreme and rare circumstances, and we should never grow comfortable with cutting someone lose. Whether we win or lose the battle, we must remain graceful toward all involved. It’s not about us, its about the purpose. We are part of a determined effort to build a road, not a castle.

4. What happens when we fall.

If we want to experience the fulfillment and exhilaration of working for something bigger than ourselves, we better be prepared to have the snot beat out of us on a regular basis. We will fall, but we can’t let those falls destroy us. We have to recover from our falls with increased commitment and resolve to learn from the struggle. The only way we truly lose is to surrender, and we NEVER have to surrender. Sure, we might have to quit a crappy job on occasion, but we should never surrender the pursuit of worthy work.

Find the purposeful where you work and partner with them to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive. We are not entitled to that kind of workplace – we are going to have to work hard and fight for it. That fight begins within, by assuming full responsibility for ourselves.

Complacency and hubris are our greatest enemies.

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Comments (2)

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  1. ‘Enemies’ can also ‘hone the steel’ so to speak. Force us to sharpen our arguments and identify the real areas of weakness in others perspectives. But thinking in terms of ‘us’ vs ‘them’ also requires a strong light of day perspective. Identify the real reasons for argument – is it fear, subterfuge or honest differences of opinion. By exposing real motivation and bad behavior (and not falling prey to the same tactics yourself) goals can stay in view and real issues can be dealt with.

    Sounds so easy in theory…

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Very good point, Fred. That’s why this all begins with assuming responsibility for yourself. You have to continuously check yourself and your own motives. Thanks! Bret