An Air of Protest

Values under tension

I was asked recently for my thoughts on resolving a tension being experienced by a business partner, a  desire to 'protest' an opposition to certain recent policies enacted by the new President, whilst staying true to other core values and treating others as he would wish to be received, i.e. the new POTUS should at least be made welcome by us.

I was interested in this as a leadership issue, I have concerns around the tension in the air, and I enjoy exploring problems so it immediately raised questions I could toy with:
  • Why would we seek to ‘protest’ in this situation, what is it we are hoping to achieve, and what does that mean?
  • POTUS is an elected individual,  for us each as individuals, writers, business leaders, protestors - who is our message being delivered to – is it POTUS, or is it really just other people, how do we influence most effectively?


Over dinner and wine another friend suggested to me that ‘protest’ itself was something to be careful of:
  • When in 'protest' mode we are often making the other person simply ‘wrong’, so they feel their view is invalidated, consequently they feel invalidated – we have already put them in space where they don’t want to hear us. 
  • There needs to be a better something for people to gravitate towards, so there is a pull from within them, rather than an unwanted push from you.
That makes sense to me, if you want to be most effective the 'Protest' needs to occur in a way that the message can be heard and the message has to contain a better alternative.

Leading by values

I met with a new friend last week, we had met online as I made some connections for a documentary piece I am working on.  He is politically active, so in conversation we also spoke about his numerous experiences of  ‘protest’, and how values can inform leadership of a country and the strategic decisions that need to be made.
Those discussions reminded me of Ghandi, who was after all the leader of an enormous protest movement.  Now his many quotes simply pop up online, but in his day he mobilised masses peacefully.  The quotes are often deep expressions of the values he held, and values that he lived out in his leadership, they were a feature of what caused others to coalesce around him.
  • My suggestion to a group of friends online was that perhaps we could each take sometime to revisit the  movie and consider what we might learn from Ghandi as we think about how we communicate with the world and how we lead in our businesses or social media ‘bubbles’ in an effective and positive way through our values.

My response to my partner on this topic might now be:
  • It feels like ‘protest’ is entirely reasonable, the underlying values held and the tensions created between them might inform how that ‘protest’ manifests.
  • Perhaps the exploration to lay bare in the 'protest', the elements to explore and express, are the tensions which exist in the core values being breached, and why they are such great values to hold.
  • In your final edits you might also want to consider this question as a challenge to the balance you bring -  which sign to paint is more effective ‘We hate misogynists’ or ‘Women are great’?
  • It feels like the core values of our brand demand we make some form of observation and at least raise challenges to what is unfolding before us - it is a leadership issue.  

As I write this the news comes in of Mr Speaker at the House of Commons who has laid his cards firmly on the table, in a bold move for the role where neutrality is the expectation, he has chosen to make it clear that there will be no invite for Mr Trump to speak – now whether you agree with his act or not – I would suggest it was one of leadership by values.

with love