Tribal Members vs. Tribal Council?
No one ever said it would be easy. In fact, leading a tribal government is probably one of the most challenging occupations I’ve ever witnessed. Over the years, I’ve observed people spark both controversy and intense reactiveness during debates at tribal membership meetings. Tempers often flared as accusations were hurled back and forth between tribal members and tribal councilors, or even between those in the audience. A few times, one or more people would throw enraged tantrums serious enough to warrant a security call. So you might imagine it’s easy to assume that, from time to time, it appears to be an “us against them” environment; tribal members vs. tribal council.
I’ve seen enough to know it can be tempting for a leader to want to either distance themselves or avoid various tribal members altogether simply because when people experience hardships, they sometimes react in ways that get under your skin. For this reason, it’s important for current and future leaders to not only understand how to interact productively with others, but to know how to strategically shift meeting atmospheres from negative to positive.
True leaders love the people they serve.
Real leaders understand their leadership position is not about themselves. It’s about building a stronger community or organization through empathy, compassion, honesty and mercy in addition to one’s abilities, intellectual gifts and credentials. And doing so requires not only a strong character but nerves of steel. Inspired by Undercover Boss star Joel Manby’s leadership book Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders, here are five ways leaders can embrace one another, employees and constituents more effectively.
1. A real leader ain’t afraid of people.
Let’s face it: many tribal members are frustrated, angry or confused for many valid reasons. Right, wrong or otherwise, many have built their lives around an expectation to live in luxury. With at least 75% of our people’s household income gone in a short amount of time due to everything that has happened in the last few years, many are wading through a sea of raw emotions; sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, depression, hopelessness, etc.
Now is the time for leaders to listen carefully and be willing to understand, and especially recognize our basic human need to be understood. Leaders should not avoid those who are angry or in need. Now more than ever, a leader must embrace people with empathy, compassion and understanding. And a real leader not only seeks understanding, but also is humble enough to realize that it’s only by the grace of God he or she is not in the exact same predicament.
2. A real leader seeks to lift people up.
Encouragement has a way of magically disarming even the most hostile, downtrodden individual. A person may be engaged in a caustic temperamental rant, but a few uplifting words of encouragement can trigger that individual to completely change his or her attitude in a moment! It’s critically important for leaders to recognize the value of going out of their way to try and uplift others because it’s not only effective, it’s downright healing.
In his book, Manby says the most effective leaders recognize their responsibility to seek out opportunities to speak kindness and encouragement to others – not superficial niceties, but genuine caring words of support – specifically those who cross their path on a daily basis. Likewise, it’s critical to resist the temptation to buy into negative rumors and innuendos about families and individuals. Tearing one another down or passive-aggressively causing others to feel insignificant because they think differently, don’t offer anything to promote your career or refuse to stoke the flames of your ego are highly destructive behaviors for the leader as well as the community.
3. Real leaders tolerate hecklers.
They can be annoying, can’t they? Some folks are downright combative in meetings, but a real leader won’t take it personally. He or she will recognize that the emotions of a few individuals do not represent the emotional barometer of the entire community. Good leaders are good listeners capable of hearing past someone’s emotions to what is actually being said.
Consider that, more often than not, there is a significant message buried beneath the dramatic exterior of a hostile person’s demeanor. The bottom line is, these folks usually want answers, accountability, justice, equality and opportunity, and a real leader will not only recognize how most people want these same things, but will commit themselves to seeing these issues resolved swiftly, completely, and ethically.
4. A real leader doesn’t try to buy people.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from abolitionist movements, it’s that you can’t buy loyalty when you buy people. In fact, the weakest, most poisonous relationships are those involving the manipulation of others, misuse of authority and superfluous “strings attached”.
Real leaders will refrain from lowering themselves to buy people’s affection and loyalty with lofty promises, giveaways and perks. When they do, they inevitably chain themselves to higher expectations than they are ever capable of delivering. And when that happens, a leader’s downward spiral from grace is inevitable.
5. Real leaders not only include people, they foster unity among people.
“People want to be involved in decisions that affect them because they understand that participation is a sign of trust from their leadership,” states Joel Manby. Simply put: no interaction means no trust. When people are barred from involvement in decisions that affect them, leaders are essentially translating both disrespect and condescension, and condescending attitudes always obstruct unity.
“We know what’s best for you.”
“You aren’t important or worthy enough to be involved in our decisions.”
“My job is to make these decisions for you.”
A leader must be humble enough to understand he or she is incapable of making good decisions for others alone. Instead, a good leader will champion ideas and actions geared to foster reconciliation rather than division, answers rather than secrets, action plans and execution rather than procrastination or de-prioritizing the value, wellbeing and nurturing of the people.
It’s your turn: What are your thoughts on leaders and the way they interact with their subordinates or constituents?