Tag Archives: Barak Obama

Insults and the Insulting Leaders Who Use Them

I recently read an article on foreignpolicy.com discussing how the media and U.S. policymakers commonly depict North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as irrational. The piece explains the current state of affairs from Kim’s point of view and provides historical reasons that may validate his behaviors. While I’m certainly not condoning Kim, it does remind me of the power in diplomacy.

Many U.S. politicians have verbally assaulted North Korea over the years. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “We are not dealing with a rational person, who has not had rational acts, who is not thinking clearly” and President George W. Bush labeled them as part of an “Axis of Evil.” My question is why you would want to insult someone with whom you’d like to build a constructive relationship?

This isn’t the first time I’ve considered this. I remember when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continuously insulted Republicans while she was concurrently trying to gather votes for the Affordable Care Act. Or when a Congressman shouted “You lie” to President Obama during a joint session address. Or when a Democratic Congresswoman called her Republican colleague a “Howdy Doody-looking nimrod” during a budget debate. You could even go back to when Theodore Roosevelt disagreed with then President Benjamin Harrison calling him “a cold-blooded, narrow-minded, prejudiced, obstinate, timid old psalm-singing Indianapolis politician.”

In each of these cases, one politician was in the process of garnering support for his/her legislation; and in each case, they allowed productive debate to be disrupted by empty slurs…and they were empty. There was no substantive argument or strategic need for discord. It was frustration, pure and simple, boiling over in ineffective ways.

In the newspapers, we see this [politician] insulting that one, that one says this about the other one, but in a society where the standards of politics has fallen so much – I am talking about world society – we lose the sense of building society, of social co-existence, and social co-existence is built on dialogue.—Pope Francis

Now I am not so naïve as to argue for kumbaya-like unity, nor am I compelling you to admire your rival, but insults are not the pathway to results. Even President Trump on occasion (very rare occasion) has recognized the destructive nature of insults:

We don’t need to like the other person or agree with their point of view. We do, however, need to find ways in which to support a culture of mutual respect where work can get done with all affected parties. This, if nothing else, is a core responsibility of a leader.

As leaders, we must be focused on getting things done. This sometimes entails swallowing your spiteful thoughts in the pursuit of progress. You cannot bring people together if you’ve already alienated them and their ideas. It does not mean you should pretend to be in accord; just that you can be nice.

Don’t let pettiness distract from your ability to influence. In the midst of intense discord, feelings are raw and people tend to act out, but this does not excuse impolite behavior. Find an outlet for your resentment, but also find the right time and do it in a way that will not sabotage your deal. With practice, who knows, maybe you’ll even win them over to your side.

Moral Outrage in an Election Cycle: Why You Need to Yell Louder

outrageDuring speaking engagements, I’m being asked more and more about the individuals running for President of the United States. This is not surprising since 1) I typically speak about leadership, and 2) we are in the midst of electing a new national leader. When these questions come up, I try to cover them with a nonpartisan response that discusses the candidates as more of a leadership case study versus delivering a political speech.

As much as I attempt to avoid focusing on a Presidential candidate’s ideological leanings, there are people who attempt to maximize their stage time during the Q&A segment with an impassioned lecture on the state of the country. They are then followed by an equally impassioned lecture on the opposite side of the issue. As their passion turns to outrage, I find my role shift from speaker to referee.

So much moral outrage. Its prevalent on the campaign trail, news programs, debates, and on the corner where people are holding signs in support of (or against) a candidate. This holier-than-thou indignation use to bother me; now I’m considering whether we should be harnessing it.

A recently published paper in the journal Nature has found that “people who invest time and effort in condemning those who behave badly are trusted more.” When denouncing wrongdoers, we appear to be vanguards of fairness and justice. Our vilification comes across as a selfless act thus, as the research shows, improves our reputation.

Our mathematical model shows that choosing to punish wrongdoers can work like a peacock’s tail — if I see you punish misbehavior, I can infer that you are likely to be trustworthy. – from the New York Times’What’s the Point of Moral Outrage?

marco-rubioshoesAccording to an article in Psychological Science, the term ‘moral outrage’ suggests a high degree of anger. However, to experience true moral outrage, you must also feel and express disgust. This disgust relates to situations that engage your moral sense and violate your beliefs. For instance, a few summers ago, President Obama had the nerve to wear a tan-colored suit to a press conference. Marco Rubio caused a similar outcry when the American public rallied against his shoe selection. I’m not exactly sure why these incidents sparked outrage, but I own neither a tan suit nor shoes with a high heel… not that I am taking sides.

obama tan suitWhether running for office or leading an organization, expressing moral outrage serves as a form of personal advertisement. You are advertising that you are not just anti “bad stuff,” but that you are taking a public stand against said “bad stuff” and are willing to take action to prevent it from happening again.

Ironically, the research also shows that the need to actually take action is not necessary. Your visible outrage is all that is necessary to bolster your trustworthy quotient; pursing punishment of those accused is perceived as a weaker signal of trustworthiness.

While I agree with the above research, I will not recommend that you forget about Mark Twain’s infamous, “Action speaks louder than words.” See how far you will get in your career if you are all talk with no action. At the same time, maybe expressing some of your moral outrage is not so bad. Just save it for issues that matter, be well-informed before speaking, and be prepared for some backlash by those who don’t agree…. unless you are speaking out against tan suits; some things cannot be condoned.

Stuart Scott on Finding Your Distinctive Style

Stuart ScottThis past weekend, we lost a seminal figure in the sports world. Stuart Scott, longtime anchor at ESPN, died after a hard fought battle with cancer. As an avid watcher of SportsCenter, Stuart made sports news fun. His catchphrases and overall demeanor brought unmatched energy to the anchor desk. Paired with his astute insights and depth of knowledge, Stuart had a style all his own.

Want to be more like Stuart? Trying incorporating a few of these traits into your everyday persona.

Energy

Stuart emoted excitement. Unlike most anchors before him, he reacted when a homerun was hit or a touchdown was scored. Stuart shouted and cheered as exhilarating feats of athleticism were exhibited in the game. This is effective when narrating highlights, but it can also help you in the boardroom.

Too often, leaders try to appear as passive observers who are “above the fray.” This is necessary at times but overuse makes us appear out of touch and/or unconcerned. Don’t pretend you are unaffected. Get excited. Get loud.

Originality

When something great happens, have you said, “Boo-yah”? Thank Stuart. He created new sayings that became popular in mainstream culture. Stuart blended words and phrases that had never been used to describe sports from his complimentary “as cool as the other side of the pillow” to his trash talking “He must be the bus driver cuz he was takin’ him to school” to serenading with “Michael, Michael, Michael, can’t you see. Sometimes your threes just hypnotize me.”

Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favorite teams and the day’s best plays…Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us — with courage and love. – President Barak Obama

When you express yourself, add some style, some pizzazz. Combine new ideas to create something original. Make sure your name is associated with innovative ideas, not maintaining the status quo.

Authenticity

When you watched Stuart, you had the feeling he was just being himself. It was as if he was sitting on the couch next to you commenting on the game. One way Stuart did this was by speaking in a way genuine to him.

Every sentence doesn’t need to have perfect noun/verb agreement. I’ve said ‘ain’t’ on the air. Because I sometimes use ‘ain’t’ when I’m talking. ‘Cincinnati Bengals thought that they were going to go 12 and 4 this year—man, they ain’t going 12 and 4!’ – Stuart Scott

Don’t be afraid to show who you really are. It will not be as polished but you will appear more approachable, sincere, and honest. As Stuart said, “I’ll write that because I’m going to write like I talk.”

Effort

You can have all the catchy phrases in the world but it doesn’t matter if you lack substance. “I never found [Stuart] without a statistic to back up what he was saying,” said ESPN legend Dan Patrick. “He wanted you to know that he knew what he was talking about, and he never failed.” Even when he was feeling his worst, Stuart gave work his all.

He’d be tired, but once he sat down in the chair…he would just start to click in and get that zero focus…It was just Stuart Scott doin’ SportsCenter, havin’ fun. – John Buccigross, co-anchor

Inspiration

At the ESPYS, Stuart gave a rousing speech that became a rallying cry for millions of cancer patients and their families.

When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live. – Stuart Scott

However, more than a simple (yet eloquent) speech, Stuart lived a life that inspired people every day. He was true to himself and his beliefs. He was a dedicated father, a selfless friend, a proud advocate for numerous causes, and a genuinely good person. He was someone we should all aim to emulate. Boo yah!