Now that the first round of George Zimmerman's trial has ended in acquittal, we can take a moment and ask ourselves, is there anything in the whole story to learn about life and leadership? There will almost certainly be civil suits and counter suits and perhaps even a federal trial yet ahead. What a mess. But even now there must be something we can glean from all this. I would like to offer a few reflections that have nothing to do with how you feel about the verdict.
1) Stay out of dark places where you have no need to be. In all of life, that is an important truth. Getting in the darkness makes us vulnerable. If both men had remembered that, this never would have happened. Stay in the light!
Leaders & CEOs who allow their organizations to wander about in the darkness can come in for some very negative results. Some “leaders,” so called, prefer darkness to light on facts and trends they choose to ignore. The do not want to see such unhappy realities and by closing their own eyes, they steer their organizations over into darkened areas. It is there that those very realities will catch up with them. Many companies have been mugged by truths that had they been dealt with earlier, in the light of reality, would never have caused any damage.
Keep the lights on. Just because you cannot see the bad news doesn’t mean it’s not there. Deal with it in the light.
2) Proverbs 15:1 says "A gentle answer turns away wrath." How many relational catastrophes in families and on the job could be avoided with nothing more than a gentle answer? If either man had just given a gentle answer perhaps none of this would have happened.
Families, marriages, even companies and churches can explode in useless antagonism simply because someone won’t just answer gently. Sharp words rub up against sharp words til sparks fly. Add in male testosterone and those sparks can be downright dangerous.
I talked recently with a pastor who told me he had just released a talented, well-educated leader in his organization. “He caused an uproar everywhere he went,” the pastor told me. “I just couldn’t run the risk of the next explosion.”
Standing your ground doesn’t mean being rude and macho. And just because you get asked some questions doesn’t give you the right to erupt. Gentle answers make for wrath-free companies.
3) Simple decisions can have horrible unintended consequences. Many businesses have caused themselves complications and frustrations by not thinking through the long-range, negative implications of short term decisions. I'm sure George Zimmerman is riddled with regrets. Better than regrets is thinking ahead. If I do this, THAT might happen. The law of unintended consequences is ignored at great risk.
At the 1876 World’s Fair an Asian vine was introduced into the U.S. and subsequently imported to serve as a rapidly-growing ground cover to keep topsoil from blowing and washing away. Today the Southeastern United States fights a constant battle with kudzu just to keep the stuff from covering whole cities! In fact, Kudzu now damages about 150,000 acres every year.
Take time to think it through. Waiting, studying the possible outcomes, letting the moment cool off – these and other tactics will give your organization time to see the unforeseen. Danger may lurk in the darkness and wading in with a gun, or confronting someone who may just have one both seem a bit reckless. Think it through BEFORE you go in.
Here is the summary.
1) Stay in the light.
2) Speak gently.
3) Think of possible negative implications BEFORE plunging into action.