Finding success in diversity through your best critics
A great President once said, “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” During his term, President Lincoln created a team composed of his biggest rivals, people who were unafraid to take issue with him and confident of their own leadership abilities. Lincoln surrounded himself with people who had strong egos and high ambitions; who felt free to question his authority; and who were unafraid to argue with him.Does this approach sound familiar to another Illinois President? Lincoln came to power when the nation was in peril, and he had the intelligence, and self-confidence, to know that he needed the best people by his side; people who were leaders in their own right and who were aware of their own strengths.
Effectively surrounding yourself with those that will challenge your views, embrace true collaboration, and seek diversity at every opportunity is the key to reaching success at every level. The idea is not just to put your rivals in power, the point is that we must choose the best people in the country, in our state, on our island, or in our company, for the good of a higher purpose. That’s an important insight whether you’re the leader of a country or the CEO of a company.
Seeking diversity and varying opinions in everything we do is a good rule of thumb in attaining the best solutions. We are blessed in Kaua‘i to have so much diversity everywhere we turn. Nowhere else in the world do people from all walks of life, with multiple cultural lineages, backgrounds and perspectives live in the same place. We call ourselves “The Melting Pot of the Pacific”, but do we really embrace the different perspectives that come with each culture? Are we honest and open to the point we are willing to be uncomfortable in order to reach positive outcomes that will benefit the collective? We often joke and make fun of other cultures, and for the most part there is acceptance, but when the going gets tough do we point the finger in the other direction. Do we embrace the people with adverse ideas and perspectives to ours? If so, have we been missing the ho‘oponopono step in this process. The need to be humble and empathetic in our approach to collaboration is paramount to success along with a willingness to speak up and present our viewpoints in a healthy manner. As it stands, many of us are withdrawn, unable or unwilling to express our views openly.
There is a lot to learn from our famous President Abraham Lincoln and I’m glad to see that President Obama believes in the value of diversity and practices it. Maybe he witnessed the cultural challenges growing up in Hawaii and the need to embrace critics, or maybe he believes in the value of diversity that Hawai‘i represents. Either way, we have a lot to learn from these two great men. In closing, I will leave you with two more of my favorite Lincoln quotes that I think sums up our current situation. First, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Our small island is no different. We can start by considering the following actions:
- Look within ourselves for answers and be willing to share our ideas with others.
- Be willing to allow others to contribute and provide insights.
- Continue to seek out solutions collaboratively and be willing to co-create throughout the process.
- Rid ourselves of fear and ego and trust that there is a common thread in all of us that we can acknowledge.
After all, we’re all we’ve got on this small island. You see, as times become more difficult financially, as budgets get cut, as people continue to lose jobs and as we face more challenges, we are forced to look towards each other for solutions, regardless of whom you are or where you come from. How do we respond? Abe would say, “As our case is new, we must think and act anew.”