After seven days of non-stop media coverage of George Floyd’s gut-wrenching death and the public outrage, I find myself oscillating between deep sadness and seething anger.
The voice in my head keeps asking the same questions my 3-year-old grandson asks me; why, how and when?
Except now the voice is crying out in a piercing scream. Why does this keep happening to people of colour? How do we get them to stop treating us this way? When will society change?
I’ve come to realize, none of these why, how and when questions make any difference.
Why, how and when questions limit leaders to dysfunctional problem-solving techniques. They result in people arguing their points-of-view, instead of taking constructive action.
These staple questions don’t produce new thinking, change behaviours or create lasting results. They are a mental trap that keep us from doing anything constructive.
Why, How and When Questions are Exasperating
Imagine a child asking you questions like How do you walk? and Why do people walk like that instead of like this? Now think about that child asking you the same questions over and over again. You’d likely end up exasperated and say something in frustration, “They walk that way because they walk that way”.
That’s how we behave as a society. We keep asking why, how and when questions over and over until we’re exasperated, become enraged and then lash out.
We Need a New Kind of Leader
People chant over and over in the protest marches…
What do we want? A new kind of Leader!
When do we want it? Now!
This new kind of Leader would engage in What questions instead of why, how and when.
What questions provoke authentic conversation and diversity of thought. What conversations inspire people to be cause-in-the-matter, rather than getting stuck rationalizing why events occur.
What conversations require people to think deeper and be constructive. Questions like What is missing that results in violence and fear and What actions might we take to get people treating each other as equals?
It is a subtle but fundamental shift that gets people engaged in solution thinking.
We Can’t Change What Happened
While we can’t change what happened to George Floyd, we can change the paradigm this new kind of Leader operates from to one of authentic person-to-person connection.
We Can Be Cause In The Matter
We can change the conversation from blaming and rationalization to constructive action.
We can shift the conversational paradigm. We can demand a different approach to leadership, focused on what’s possible for people everywhere.
The entry point into this new possibility starts with you. You can ask What new actions will I take to create what’s possible? Asking What questions are the foundation of leadership.
What Is This New Kind of Leadership?
Leadership is about producing outcomes that would not happen without a focused purpose. It fosters a commitment to discovering what is possible, instead of giving up or lashing out in anger.
This new form of leadership embraces humanity. It shows up in all facets of life, not just at work, but within families, communities, schools, policing and government.
If you’re fed-up with racism, tired of living in fear, disgusted by the abuse and lack of accountability, it’s time to demand a new form of leadership.
Now it is up to you. What new actions will you take?
Please read my related article, published in the Calgary Herard June 3, 2020.