In the wake of two significant election campaigns in both Australia and the United States I am becoming increasingly disturbed by an emerging culture of dishonour towards people who carry a mantle of leadership. More than ever before, leaders from all sectors of society are confronted with complex issues and diverse worldviews that significantly raise the stakes of leadership and increases hostility towards those who dare to lead.
I hear some of you retort, "We have a responsibility to speak out against bad leadership!" To which I reply, "Yes, but..."
Ideological conflict over critical issues is essential in any healthy functioning society. However, when that conflict descends into personality bashing or character assassination, we destroy any foundation of trust that is absolutely necessary to dealing with the issues at the heart of our conflict.
In recent days I have read so much dishonouring name calling and have seen too many demeaning "memes" on social media by leaders toward other leaders that is far from constructive and does little to address very real issues. Irrespective of which side of politics you align with or what religious views you adhere to, effective leadership demands a level of honour that transcends opposing points of view to engage in respectful and robust dialogue with those in authority who view the world very differently to yourself.
I am not talking about blindly following a leader into darkness. Nor am I suggesting a mediocre tolerance of all policies or ideologies. Neither do I think leaders should never be challenged. In fact, “I want to argue that the solution to ideological discord is not “tolerance” in the post-modern form we frequently find it, the bland affirmation of all viewpoints as equally true and valid but an ability to profoundly disagree with others and deeply honour them at the same time” (John Dickson, "Humilitas"). This is not simply agreeing to disagree under a facade of political correctness but a depth of character that demonstrates humility and honour in the face of fierce disagreement.
I appeal to leaders from all walks of life...
Let us rise above the petty politics that attack the person instead of addressing the issues.
Let us see through the media biases that manipulate the truth to promote a hidden agenda.
Let us resist demonising conflicting worldviews and create safe environments to debate those views.
Let us commit to nurturing a posture of influence rather than perpetuating a pattern of insolence.