Shhhh… Can you hear it? It’s the moment of huge change about to occur. It’s here….. Again.
As buzzwords and catch phrases fly around the nation today, from “the New Normal” to “Real Change”, the 800 pound gorilla in the room right now is that it’s election day. Blogsters across the country are doing one of two things: ignoring the gorilla and writing about their passions, or they are doing like I am, shaking hands with the gorilla and writing about what we can learn from this event.
Yes, I want to talk about the change that punctuates this point of political trajectory – our national election which is the juncture between the past and the future – with this present day deciding that path.
What’s true about this election is that roughly 50% of the voters will be unhappy. It’s a close one and regardless of the final percentage spread that happens in the popular vote, some folks will be disappointed.
Taking the lessons from a few good leaders can help you with the post election stress syndrome (PESS, a cousin of PTSD) you may find yourself dealing with. Here’s what King, Lincoln and Darwin all knew: “Change is a coming!” – Whether you want it or not! So identify it, embrace it and carry it forward as a leader.
Darwin is the quintessential scientific leader who, along with several other scientists at that time, theorized evolution. He knew he would meet great opposition when presenting this theory. Darwin steeled himself and spent his life as the voice of “species success through physical adaptation” – the ultimate expression of change. In a phrase: “Adapt or Die”. He took a lot of heat for that message.
Lincoln was the father of the Republican Party who also fathered one of the greatest changes in our country’s reining economic and cultural structure – the abolition of slavery. What we learn from President Lincoln was how well he understood change by being realistic on how quickly or drastically change can move. He patently hated slavery because of what it represented on a human level. But he also supported creating a colonization effort to export the freed slaves to locations out of the country.
As Darwin believed that evolution takes millions of years, if not more, to observe even the slightest change, Lincoln knew you cannot expect an entire economic and cultural system to change in one administration.
One hundred years later Dr. Martin Luther King implemented, once and for all, true emancipation. Lincoln had opened the door- it was up to him to walk through it. What was Dr. King’s message? It was one of national growth through peaceful change. As much as was possible in the state of upheaval, change was accomplished peacefully as the nation shifted, once again, to an inclusive economic value system. Dr. King was wise in knowing that he had to give back to get something and offered a stronger nation by taking advantage of the contributions coming from ALL people. We all excel when we all can excel. Our strength comes from our diversity, not from homogeneity.
What can you learn from these leaders on the dawn of a new political landscape to accept the inevitable, regardless of how your view, candidate or party emerges from today? It’s my hope that if you are disappointed in today’s outcome, that you find ways to cope and grow by considering the truisms here:
- Change happens regardless of who is at the helm because it’s part of earth’s DNA and our human spirit – Don’t ignore or fight it; rather, accept it, embrace it, and carry it forth because that’s what real leaders do. Both candidates in this race carried change as a strategy for going forward – shouldn’t you?
- Change is accepted best when measured and sponsored. You cannot force change onto others all at once. President Lincoln knew that the real trials of emancipation would start immediately and would take lifetimes to find acceptance. Lincoln knew that too much change too quickly will indeed destroy the entire effort. On the road to acceptance, listen to the ‘story’ and remain open so you can make measured opinions, not emotional ones.
- The people and organizations who make peace with change are the ones most successful – Can you say Neanderthal? Who was Lincoln’s opponent? What happened to those who opposed Civil Rights? ‘Nuf said.
- Supporting “normalcy” is a vote against change. The ‘new normal’ is now being depicted as something negative, be it joblessness, houses in foreclosure, or climate change. We know from history that “normal”, or status quo, isn’t sustainable, therefore it’s not always a good thing to strive for because it fights against the law of nature – which is that all things change. Transformations are painful. Remember your teenage years? Adolescence is the ultimate in human change, yet we survive, don’t we? In fact, we cannot become contributing, thriving, dare I say – LIVING adults – without going through adolescence. Right? It beats the heck out of the alternative.
- The natural and constant goal of all change is improvement. So if you’re brave enough to accept change, you will see improvement somewhere. It happens. You just need to look in the right places. Those who were emancipated right after the Civil War were hard pressed to realize change had occurred or that it was change for the better. Looking backward we realize that change doesn’t happen on YOUR schedule, but it DOES happen. Find the good in change and it will find you.
- How you deal with change is the best indicator of how change will deal with you. Have you ever been swimming in an ocean amongst strong waves? Consider the difference in the energy spent to stay standing tall up against the oncoming onslaught of a 6 foot wave vs. the energy you will expend in turning your back to the wave and allowing it to carry you swiftly to the shore. I label this the: “Fighting Change vs. Going with the Flow” mindsets. Which one do you embrace? How much energy will you lose to that wave?
As you ponder the changes that will occur with this transition in political structure – which will occur even if the incumbent continues and Congress grapples, or certainly if the presidential challenger is victorious – please keep in mind that change is only your enemy IF you make it so in your life.
Perhaps the best strategy to dealing with change is to be wise and strong enough to recognize the need for it. Then, to get ahead of it you ‘carry it’ and lead for others to accept it. King, Lincoln and Darwin all thought that was a good idea.
Question: What has been your reaction to change in the past? How has that worked out for you? How do you see yourself as a leader of change? Do you disagree entirely with the tone of this Blog? If so, let me know!