Sometime during the interminable Presidential campaign of 2016, a client said to me, aghast, “Seriously, you’re pro-choice? How can that be? You’re the mom of two adopted kids!” She thought these two things were mutually exclusive; for me they most definitely were not.
It was the first time I’d ever felt like an axe murderer.
When her flushed face faded back to norm, I explained that just because I’m pro-choice does NOT automatically default me to a pro-abortion position: They are two different contexts. I can be ‘for’ something without being ‘against’ something else. It’s a choice.
She was baffled only because she’d never considered this perspective before. She’s in good company— many haven’t.
As a leader, or a leader of leaders, it’s likely you confront a similar choice every day. Would it be best to be ‘‘for’’ this one thing, or ‘‘against’’ this other thing? How would each perspective change your thoughts, your actions, your initiatives?
Would you lead differently?
Consider this: Are you ‘for’ something, merely because you’re ‘against’ something else? Are you ‘‘for’’ this thing, because the alternative is abhorrent to you? Or are you ‘for’ this issue, person, policy, etc. because you whole-heartedly believe in it? Because you’re willing to be ‘all in’ and take a stand ‘for’ it?
When we’re ‘for’ something simply because we don’t care for (or hate) it’s opposite, our energy is diluted; we’re deciding on the lesser of two evils rather than making a solid choice in favor of something in which we truly believe.
The tricky part is discerning whether the ‘‘for’’ or the ‘‘against’’ is more aligned with your values. And then…. what to do about it.
Try these on…
• Are you ‘for’ peace or ‘against’ war? • Are you ‘for’ racial equality or ‘against’ racism? • Are you ‘for’ calm or ‘against’ chaos? • Are you ‘for’ wealth or ‘against’ poverty? • Are you ‘for’ freedom of speech or ‘against’ oppression of speech? • Are you ‘for’ authenticity or ‘against’ phoniness? • Are you ‘for’ doing a great job or ‘against’ getting fired? • Are you ‘for’ Democrats or ‘against’ Republicans? • Are you ‘for’ gender equality or ‘against’ misogyny? • Are you ‘for’ education or ‘against’ illiteracy?
There’s a big difference between the two, isn’t there?
If you are ‘‘for’’ something you’ll take proactive steps to fulfill your commitment to it. You might march ‘for’ a cause, donate to a party, fill a position with a minority or under-served population, foster a culture of inclusiveness, or educate people on financial health.
You’re not avoiding something: you’re supporting something else.
If you are ‘‘against’’ something you might simply avoid being ‘‘for’’ it’s opposite. For example, if you identify as a Republican, you might vote Republican not because you believe in the current Republican candidate, but because you don’t want the Democrats to win.
If you’re ‘against’ racism, you might avoid blatantly racist hiring, philosophy, or stereotypes while not passionately plunging into the depths of the cause or actions that will bring about racial equality in your company, community or country.
The ‘for’ people lean toward action, while the ‘against’ people seem to avoid it.
The two sides of this equation are unequal. No amount of avoiding something will match the same amount of standing for something.
When you’re ‘for’ something, there’s passion in your performance. When you’re against something, you’ll avoid some pain, but you’ll also preclude yourself from being passionate. Yes, it’s a tradeoff. Much of life is.
Share one time when you switched your perspective from “against” something to “for” something or vice versa. What were the circumstances? What made you change your focus? What happened?
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