Positive Leadership Involves Building Positive Relationships

Most often when men and women are struggling in their role as leader their problems are a function of their relationships with the people with whom they interact. Rarely does it matter whether the relationship issues are with the leader’s employees, fellow supervisors, the people to whom they report, or members of their supply chain, both internal and external. The dynamics are pretty much the same in all human relationships, with the exception of romances and friendships. What distinguishes love/partnerships and friendships is that these relationships exist in the context of choice.

All other relationships typically happen as a result of us coming into frequent contact with others through work, team play, neighborhoods, or other serendipitous event. When our daily lives bring us into close contact with another human being, the extent to which we get along and are able to interact on a positive basis goes a long way in determining our happiness and success. If we like the people with whom we must spend time, then life is so much easier, less stressful, more productive, and happier. Sometimes these relationships blossom into friendships or partnership but rarely are we able to make this happen.

For people who are having relationship issues, in the work place or other non-intimate situations, there are two simple rules at play. The first, is if you are unhappy with the way other people are treating you, start by taking a critical look at how you treat them. Inevitably, how others treat you is a reaction to your behavior toward them.

The second rule at play is one of the core principles of positive leadership. It is only when we accept responsibility for relationships/problems that we begin to acquire the power to change/solve them. In this case, we have no direct power over the way people are treating us or responding to us. We do, however, have control over how we choose to interact with them and respond to the negative nuances.

Never be afraid to ask people for their help in improving your relationship with them but asking for that assistance in the right way is imperative. If they interpret your request as “I don’t like the way you are treating me and we need to change it!” you can be sure they will view your request as self-serving.

Simply approach the person(s) with sincerity and acknowledge that the relationship seems strained. Ask what you can do to improve it. Once that subject is broached it becomes easier to arrive at a point where you each accept responsibility for the friction that exists between you. Very few people welcome friction in their relationships but that friction persists because few are willing to take the initiative to do something about it. Most people will respond to an olive branch, however, if they sense sincerity.

Accepting responsibility and reaching out to others is the essence of positive leadership and it can change your life and the lives of the people around you. My book, The Difference is You, Power Through Positive Leadership will show you how much power you have to make a difference.

Freedom of Religion Misconstrued

It is difficult to imagine that our founding fathers envisioned that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America would be used to justify discrimination against any person or persons or to provide an exemption from compliance with the laws of the land.

The Constitution was adopted to guarantee the rights of citizens to choose how they wish to live their lives and to protect them against abuses by their government. Such protections were a high priority of the framers of our Constitution given that so many of their families had fled to America to escape such abuses. The Bill of Rights refers to amendments to the constitution that were intended to define the rights that were considered to be most precious to a free people.

The First Amendment specified freedom of religion, free speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peacefully assemble, and “to petition the government for redress of grievances.” With specific reference to freedom of religion, the intent was that not only are citizens free to choose their religion but also that the government is prevented from interfering with those choices.

Annually, at Christmas and Easter, we hear complaints that the refusal to grant permission to have displays of Christian worship symbols within or on the grounds of public buildings is somehow an infringement of the religious freedom of Christians.

This is a clear misinterpretation of the First Amendment. Our government’s obligation is to protect our right to decide how we worship, not play favorites. Public buildings belong to Jews, Muslim, and practitioners of other religions every bit as much as they belong to Christians and these American have every right to object to those symbols being placed on property funded with their tax dollars.

That Christianity has long been the dominant religion in the U.S. makes it that much more important that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others be protected from persecution or domination by Christians. Christians have no right to preferential treatment, their claims that the U.S. is a Christian nation notwithstanding.

The truth, today, is that the other religions of the world have become and will continue to become more prevalent in American society. While the adjustment to this reality may not come easily to Christians, it is an adjustment that cannot be avoided if we are to remain a free society.

Recent proposals to restrict the freedoms of Muslims, in the aftermath of both domestic and international terrorism by radical Islamic terrorist groups, proves the vital importance of such Constitutional protections. Imagine infringing on the rights of Christians, for example, following terrorist acts committed by armed anti-government militia groups who profess to be radical Christians executing the wrath of God.

History has shown that human beings, Christians included, are capable of horrific acts of violence against other human beings. Each and every one of us deserves the same protections under the law from individuals or groups that lay claim to the Divine right to pass judgment on their fellow man.

The same would be true for the rights of gays and lesbians. To think that we could use our constitutional right to freedom of religion to justify discrimination against any population of Americans, including gays and lesbians and now transgenders, is scary. The American Congress, as duly empowered by the Constitution, has passed legislation prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and these laws have been found to be Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Claiming that religious freedom grants one license to disregard the law of the land is a frightening prospect in a free society, no matter who does the proclaiming.

The United States of America may well be one nation, under God but it is for individual citizens to determine how they wish to profess their faith and beliefs, or not at all.

CBS 60 Minutes Report Comparing American and German Prisons

Visiting a prison in Germany, in a recent telecast, CBS 60 Minutes reported the stark differences between American and German prisons and “stark” barely describes the comparison. Even prisoners serving long sentences for violent crimes have an enormous amount of freedom, compared to inmates in American inmates, and reside in comfortable quarters that are closer in comparison to a retreat spa than to an American penitentiary. Some prisoners, CBS 60 Minutes reported, even possess keys to their own cells; if you can even call them cells.

Some notable questions for the piece were, “how do we explain the contrast between American and German prisons?” and “what can we learn from the German penal system?”

My response would be that there is not much we can learn that can be translated into changes in American penitentiaries because the differences in penal systems are nothing more than a reflection of the differences between German and American society.

Americans like to think that we live in the greatest nation on earth but that is more of a long-held assumption than a reality. This is particularly true if you are Black, Muslim, Mexican or other minority. The same can be said if you are poor, of poor health, or are the victim of a gun related crime. The German government, much like many of the other industrial democratic nations of the world, actually takes care of all of its citizens, rather than a privileged few, and it provides a much safer environment, the threat of terrorism notwithstanding.

Racial tension and prejudice permeates American society. German society is much less diverse and while there are certainly racists among the German people, recent incidents like Ferguson and Baltimore are, arguably, much less likely to happen. The German people, probably, are far more charitable to President Obama and his family than “conservative Americans” who view the President as evil.

I have not been to Germany but I would be surprised to learn that one would find the same long lines that we see at community food banks in cities around the U.S. Similarly, the disturbing failure rates among American public school students, particularly on the part of poor and minority children, are not part of the German socio-cultural experience.

One of the other differences in the two societies is the prevalence of guns in the U.S. There is an old but not very funny joke that, in a country like Germany, citizens have a right to healthcare but will find it difficult to get their hands on a gun. In the U.S., we have a right to purchase a firearm, even an assault weapon, but may well find it difficult to get access to or be able to afford healthcare for our families. The freedom to purchase and carry anything from handguns to assault weapons creates a whole different level of violence on American streets.

It would be prudent for Americans to acknowledge that our over-crowded prisons and the violent nature of our inmates are symptoms of jagged rips in the fabric of the great American democracy. They are evidence of an expanding chasm between rich and poor, healthy and sick, white citizens and people of color. This rift between the haves and the have-nots is a source of the deepening resentment some Americans have for others. It is a division that threatens the very principles of democracy. They threaten our ability to work together and to find solutions that work for common good.

If there was ever any doubt of the divisions between us, the emergence of Donald Trump as a legitimate candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination should settle the matter. Donald Trump’s appeal is his pledge to take drastic action in response to some of the problems we face as a society. As we pointed out in a previous blog post, that so many Americans are willing to embrace the authoritarian nature of such a candidate may pose the biggest threat to American democracy, its principles and traditions in our lifetime.