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How leaders can heal division through civil discourse

How leaders can heal division through civil discourse

Leadership Collier Foundation

The upcoming Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF) Alumni Association "Leadership Lunch" will focus on the growing challenge of incivility in our society. Our hope is that this event will be an important step in elevating and prioritizing a community conversation on civility. 

By Michael Wynn
President of Sunshine Ace Hardware
Past chairman of the Leadership Collier Foundation.

Why the Leadership Collier Foundation? For almost 30 years, the LCF has been the champion for leadership development in our county. We have promoted respectful advocacy as part of our curriculum. We have practiced civility in our public policy initiatives through our umbrella organization, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. We have invested in programs to continually educate our alumni so that they have informed opinions on the issues that matter most to our community.
Who better to take on the challenge of promoting civil discourse and leadership?
It used to be that you could safely debate anything, as long as you didn’t talk about politics or religion. Now, we seem to have arrived at a point where everything is politicized. As a result, we have seen a shift in recent years, where many people speak primarily to those they already agree with. This reinforces existing opinions and ultimately limits the ability to grow and learn.
Unfortunately, this mindset permeates our national politics at a time when we are facing critical decisions for our country’s future. Debate seems to be a formality versus a necessary foundation for uncovering ideas that lead to the best solution.
Many seem to have forgotten that at its core, leadership is influence. However, you cannot influence opinions if you don’t take time to listen to understand the other side. Too often, we listen only so we can reply with a more convincing argument. In addition, a good friend often reminds me that “you cannot influence and antagonize at the same time.” Too many have forgotten that ageless wisdom.
So where do we start?
The Leadership Collier Foundation believes the path starts with self-reflection and changing our own behavior.
Do we truly listen to understand, and do we assume good intentions from others, or do we label others and dismiss their input?
Do we share and promote information that is at its core divisive and condescending?
Through our example, we can help people disagree without being disagreeable.
We understand that our civility work might be a heavy lift. Our society thrives on quick validation and reinforcement of long-held viewpoints. We often fail to separate people from the problem or issue, which can lead to decisions based on personal animosities rather than on the facts that support the best solution. We need to be aware that disagreement and hate are not the same thing.
In their article “The Meaning of Civility,” Heidi and Guy Burgess discuss the fact that many differing interests divide our society. They acknowledge that there will be a long series of confrontations over moral and social issues and “often these issues will have an irreducible win-lose character and, hence, not be amenable to consensus resolution. While continuing confrontation is inevitable, the enormous destructiveness which commonly accompanies these confrontations is not.”
The growing lack of civility impacts all of us. It leads to increased incidents of violence and limits honest debate that results in the best solutions.
It’s time for all of us to make civil discourse a priority. We look forward to continuing this conversation in the months ahead and invite you to contact Amanda, at the Leadership Collier Foundation to learn more. 

About the event: 
In Florida's Capital City, The Village Square has built bridges across color, creed and ideology for a decade and a half. As the national division has accelerated, they're increasingly seen as both a thought leader and practical model in addressing the divisions we're wrestling with in hometowns across the country.

Village Square Founder & CEO Liz Joyner will offer a short-course in their sometimes counter intuitive lessons learned, whether you're wanting to have a conversation with a friend who disagrees with you, launch a bridge-building effort at work or just sleep better at night. A good news tickler: she says it's easier to address that you'd think, and that hometowns are just the place to start. 


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