I’ve dipped out of the news on a regular basis, protecting my mental health as I’ve either been getting angry or depressed about the mess the world has been in but when I do dip in, Channel 4 is my news channel of choice. And this week it led me to ponder on diversity, division and leadership.
What set me thinking? Well it was the contrast between two of their interviewees: Sam Nunberg, who was a political adviser to Donald Trump and Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Five, falsely accused of murder and jailed before being freed and awarded compensation.
Had you just listened to their words, not knowing who was speaking, you would have expected Yusef to be angry, disheartened, blame laying because of his appalling experiences and Sam to be confident, persuasive in his arguments and reasoned because, after all, his man was occupying the highest office in the land. How wrong you would have been.
The person who had experienced the highest attack on his life and life chances, Yusef, was thoughtful, able to elucidate in rich language his views on the situation in the US, the division that is being experienced and the state of leadership in the country. Sam however opened his commentary with a strident attack on the integrity of the reporter, vehement in his tone and language emphasising the division, the lack of diversity – and driving the division as a result of his language.
It astonished and depressed me at the same time. How is conflict to be resolved when those who are temperate in their tone and reason are confronted by those who are tempered by anger? And that takes me to the concept of leadership and the lessons that can be taken from this for business.
First let’s recognise the cultural differences between the US and the UK, particularly the differences in their attitudes towards policing, accountability and gun control, and the stark contrast of advancement opportunities for the different racial groups. It makes us look aghast at incidents which lead to a man being shot multiple times in the back. I don’t believe we can begin to grasp the impact such a culture has on the mindsets of the country’s inhabitants.
However, when considering attributes of a leader, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the leadership in question here is following an aggressive marketing approach and targeting their followers to the detriment of those considered to be their competitors – and if this was a business there’s nothing wrong in that. It’s not how I would choose to operate but it is an operating model. It is the loyal customers that keep you in business after all – if there’s enough of them. (If you’re in charge of a country – well that’s an entirely different matter.)
The difficulties arise where there is an insufficient customer base, in which case you need to reach out to a different segment. How does your leadership adapt for that scenario? Division and disharmony will not entice a hitherto ignored market to your product or brand. You will not be able to attract the diversity of customers required to enable you to grow. It takes a high level of self-awareness and EQ to be able to make that shift.
Returning to our interviewees, would they ever be able to be a member of the same team? What roles could they, would they play if we were to draw on their strengths in a positive way? What and how would they need to think to enable them to be more productive, to get the best out of those they engage with? Clearly here there is division and a diversity of thought as a result but does that diversity of thinking drive you forward to a positive and fruitful outcome that benefits all or stultify your thinking and ability to take it beyond what is thought possible? And what type of leadership do we want to see in a world where division and disharmony is so evident when we need a true range of diverse and equally respected thinking and co-operation to face a global crisis in health and the environment?
I'm ever hopeful that people can and do change and that once the fury of electioneering is over people like Sam will reconsider their approach whilst people like Yusef will be recognised for the deep thinkers they are. We also need deep thinking within our leaders if we are to make progress and now is the time for time to think.
Laura Murphy blogs about things that interest her. They might not interest you but read them anyway. It might even change your mind.