Center Point

August 15th, 2011

Four of my friends from church and I have lunch together once a month, rotating who picks the restaurant. These 90-minute gatherings are simply the ‘in person’ part of what plays out in email between gatherings. During those written discussions we share editorials from various online newspapers, comment on the happenings in the world and trade a lot of friendly barbs – always in good humor and with the purpose of getting each other to think. Sometimes these dialogues may happen frequently on a good news day.

While all of us fall to the right on the political pendulum, I am the one who sits closest to the middle. In fact, I jokingly refer to myself as, “The liberal Catholic among us.” One of our recent exchanges was about the budget deficit standoff and who was at fault. The member who leans waaaay toward conservative blamed the president and Democrats for their insistence that a tax hike be included in any new legislation. I assumed my typical role – playing devil’s advocate: “What about those Tea Party members who refuse to budge on any of their tenets, even if it leads to an agreement?” His response: “They’re doing the right things. The other side is wrong.”

To me this is a microcosm of the biggest challenge impacting leadership. Whenever someone takes the position of ‘I think it, so it must be correct,” there is the danger of missing the opportunity to create a better result. It’s only through a willingness to hear other ideas and consider different approaches that true growth occurs. Lines in the sand and one-sided viewpoints don’t lead to change. They simply keep things heading down the same path.

This month it’s my turn to choose where to eat. When I gave two options and said we could decide the morning of lunch, one of my group wrote, “Sounds like you’re kicking the can down the road, just like Congress.” I wrote back: “Actually, I’m trying to model that the art of compromise happens every day in the real world… and usually makes for a more enjoyable meal.”

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