The Great Divide
There was no outward burst of excitement, only silent reflection. The year-long dirty and divisive campaign, a dark period in our nation’s history, was finally over.
It is telling that as the presidential election came to a close last month, the country’s collective stunned, confused and uncomfortable response was as unusual as the campaign itself. Numbers show that more than half of voters who cast ballots for either candidate were not fully supportive of their choice. It seems that is a direct result of how deeply partisanship has become rooted in the political process. As one analyst declared, “the red states are getting redder and the blue states are getting bluer.”
A fundamental change is required and as leaders, we can play an important role in this process.
The challenge before us is to start anew. Clean slate, clear minds. Our country needs to unite and do all it can to create the changes necessary so we do not ever experience this type of election again. The vitriolic tone of the campaign wasn’t just normal campaign trail rhetoric—it tore through the nation and widened the divide. This must be reversed.
We might start by teaching Civics again—people should feel a responsibility to know and understand who their leaders are. A democracy requires participation, yet voter turnout was down this year. Those individuals who sat out this and so many elections are part of the reason there is gridlock and anger.
Complacency is no longer a solution—in politics or in our business. The constant stream of new entrants in our business has made that clear. Look around. Interesting (though not yet necessarily successful) attempts to change the business model are soaring and the ones that are making some headway are full of people from our business: they are trying to look at it differently and adapt it to our new world.
Let’s take a cue from our democracy. Let’s not wait for the divide to happen: for it to become us, the old guard, versus them, the new disruptors. Let’s work together.
As our own leadership is being called into action, it is almost fitting that this is the month we recognize our game changers—the people, things and events that have changed our industry. Game changers are defined as those who see an opportunity to cause a change and are bold enough to grab it. I’m not here to offer a specific plan for us to change the world, rather it’s a simple ask: for all of us to take a look around and commit to our core focus—our families, our employees, our communities, our businesses and our clients—to drive the change we so desperately need. That’s what game changers do.
In our country, let’s make a greater effort to see the issue and the individual and not just the party; a commitment to listen to each other and to talk to all sides; a pledge to be respectful and unified for the good of the order. In our industry, let’s see what these new entrants have to offer. Let’s listen to them and let’s pledge to be the game changers.
It’s time for us to inspire the best minds and hearts to again be attracted to public service. Not to expand or build government but rather to make it more relevant to the people it serves. It’s also time to shift from the “me” focus to the “us.” Public service, like military service, is critical to the security and soundness of a democracy. In business we call this talent development and sustainability. Without a pipeline to the future, there is no future. If we look at this election, the message is that the pipeline is weak. And it’s time to take action.
Game-changing leaders like John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan inspired so many to dedicate themselves to improving our world by involving themselves in public policy. That was a long time ago and it’s time to inspire the next generation of leaders and voters. Now is the time to end the divide.