We often see strength as somehow inextricably linked to inflexibility. We ask people what they stand for. We don’t ask what they’d bend for or maybe where they would move or shift. What ground they would give.
If I know the ground you won’t move from then I know what you represent. I know I can join you there and have some certainty. We can stand on this ground together.
The system teaches its leaders not to shift. It teaches them to show people how they will stand firm. The worst things you can be are inconsistent or inclined to change your mind.
Mistakes are held over people and revisited.
The problem comes when people raised on that notion – and rewarded on those grounds – are asked to work together.
Because if you are the one in the right and if you are the one with principles then surely the right thing is for everyone else to compromise? To understand that what you are describing is what really matters.
Because what matters are the points of difference that you’ve articulated and recognition of your rightness – not a common objective.
We’ve just finished an election in the UK and when things have calmed down a bit (or time has healed or whatever happens next) there are genuine lessons available on group dynamics, group think, flexibility and collaboration.
Possibly more profound lessons than you’ll find in your next business book – because the stakes have been higher but the behaviour all too familiar.
For now some people will be jubilant and some distraught. We need to find a bridge between those groups – and it won’t be found by everyone standing firm. It will be through people remembering that they can move towards each other.
It won’t be identifying who you can’t work with, but who you might be able to hold out a hand to.
It can feel scary to leave the solid ground that makes you feel safe. But the will and ability to move allows you to find others.
If you don’t make that choice all you can do is hope they decide to come to you. You may find that’s lonelier than you’d like. Being right in isolation can bring little benefit except self satisfaction.