Getting to Yes: What real leadership looks like

LeadershipI’m tired of it. I bet you are too. I’m tired of the screaming and name-calling that is happening in the public square. I’m tired of people afraid to speak truth because they know they’ll be flayed for it. I’m tired of people calling for “purity panels” on one hand and who talk of expanding their political party on the other. Really?? Who would want to join a party like that? The cognitive dissonance or deliberate tone-deafness required to even go there is mind-boggling.

There is far too much lecturing and far too little listening. Far too much grand-standing and far too little work. Too many people are left feeling unheard in the public square. Loud voices drown out those who would also speak. Shame and blame seem to be the order of the day. True leaders don’t need to resort to bullying and intimidation to get buy-in for their ideas. They don’t hide behind rhetorical bomb-throwing and threats toward those with a different opinion.

It’s not just about civility, however. Leadership is so much more.

Leaders get buy-in and cooperation working with people, trying to find common ground. They get buy-in by listening. Be being respectful. By understanding that just because someone’s life experience is different doesn’t make it any less valid.

There are some happy exceptions nationally and in Utah. Senator Mike Lee is one of those. He and Senator Leahy, a liberal Democrat from Vermont, recently introduced a bill with significant criminal justice reforms and it is likely to pass. Is he a sell-out because he reached across the aisle?? Of course not! He demonstrated what needed to happen for progress to be made. Hard work, heavy lifting, relationship building, inviting people to join them in their efforts, building consensus and patience. Senator Lee has been working on that bill for 3 years. Same with patent reform and almost as long on the USA Freedom Act which is now law. Senator Lee and Senator Leahy recently appeared on a political panel titled: Getting to Yes: What does it take to make a deal in today’s Senate? The top two take-aways? It’s all about relationships and there is always common ground.

Another example is Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska. I had the opportunity to hear him speak in Utah recently at Senator Lee’s “Idea Factory.” I was impressed with not only his grasp of a wide-variety of topics and how we need to be better at disruptively innovating, but also at his ability to talk about complex subjects in an understandable way.

Senator Sasse, elected in 2014, delivered his first speech on the Senate floor just a couple of days ago. It was worth waiting for and certainly worth your time to watch. He was pretty blunt about the problems the US Senate faces right now:

We don’t have a long-term foreign policy for the age of jihad and cyberwar; our entitlement budgets are completely fake; we are entering an age where work and jobs will be more fundamentally disrupted than at any point since hunter-gatherers first settled in agrarian villages. And yet we don’t really have any plans. I think the public is right that we as a Congress are not shepherding the country through the serious debates we must have about the future of this great nation….

And if I can be brutally honest for a moment: I’m home basically every weekend, and what I hear – and what I’m sure most of you hear – is some version of this: A pox on both parties and all your houses. We don’t believe politicians are even trying to fix this mess.

He then calls out Republicans and Democrats alike as part of the problem. He talks about having real, substantive, RESPECTFUL discussions and about moving away from rhetorical bombs. “Can you imagine,” he says, “a business strategist who presents just one idea, and then immediately announces that it is the only right idea, the only plausible idea? How would companies respond? They would fire that guy.”

Conservative policy entrepreneurs like Senators Lee and Sasse are the model of how we should function nationally and locally. We can and should be getting to yes through a process that includes cooperation, respectful dialogue and a willingness to actually do the work.

I’d love to dialogue with you. What do you think?