There seems to be an outrage du jour at every turn in our lives these days. The model of behavior has become that if you are not outraged about something you are either ignorant or unengaged. The rules for outrage today are easy, or lazy, as the case may be. All you need to express your outrage is to overhear a comment or opinion, out of context of course, or read a short opinion piece designed to simply raise an issue for thought. The key to today’s outrage is the out of context portion. It is easy to make assumptions, judge, and then name call based on out of context or otherwise limited information. To act differently means you may be forced to research for greater context, ask a thoughtful question with an open mind to greater understanding, or simply understand that you do not know enough to form an intelligent opinion and move on. Or, heaven forbid, allow someone to hold an opinion different than yours without character assassination. Assumptions and judgements are for the lazy. They have no place in leadership.
Take note of some common themes to the outrage du jour which are typically based on the single line of information provided: You disagree with someone of a different color than you? Racist! You think the government should provide a safety net for those less fortunate? Communist! Support a woman’s right to choose? Murderer! Pro-life? Alt-right fascist! Not sure about the idea of pre-pubescents transitioning from one sex to another? Transphobe! Now ask yourself, is it appropriate to get a little more information before you launch with the assumptions, judgements, and name calling?
If you are a leader, you lead everywhere, not just the work place. Leaders don’t act on limited, incomplete, or irrelevant information. If something is important enough to act on then they get the information they need to make an informed, unemotional decision. This is true in the work place, at home, with friends, and when we hear or read something me may initially and instinctively disagree with. Your decision-making process as a leader is your decision-making process always. If you think you can parse it out to different situations in your life you are kidding yourself, you can’t.
Leaders resist the outrage du jour because it brings unnecessary and often harmful emotions into the equation, like anger, hate, resentment, and jealousy. Good, thoughtful leadership decisions are never made under the cloud of emotions like these because good decisions simply can’t be made while experiencing these emotions. Good leaders assess the information, assess what they know and don’t know, and then decide whether an action is even necessary. The leader who gives in to emotions moves directly to action, unnecessary or not, uninformed or not.
Today’s leadership point and challenge? Check yourself and see just how often you are jumping on the outrage du jour bandwagon. Are you hearing or reading something and immediately going to assumptions, judgement, and name calling? Or are you identifying the things you don’t know, or need more information on, before you make a lazy decision to act? Today’s leadership point and challenge? Don’t be part of the outrage du jour, it’s just not what great leaders do.
Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Errol provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.