Are You Closing Your Ears to Opposing Views?

As I watched a recent interview with Senator George Mitchell, I reached for my remote and hit stop and rewind.  I wanted to write down what was said to share it with you…and to use in my growth journey!

opposing views picture

As a Senator from Maine for 15 years, Senate Majority Leader for 6 years, a special US envoy to North Ireland who is credited in brokering peace between the UK and the IRA, as a recent envoy to the middle east, as chairman of the Walt Disney Company, and as the Chancellor of Queen’s University in Belfast…Senator Mitchell knows leadership!

He is a preeminent diplomat and statesman!  He has seen crisis first-hand and gotten to know leaders in peace, in war, and during bitter conflicts.

For those reasons, when he speaks, many listen.  Let me share with you what he said in discussing world leaders and a most disabling handicap they are all susceptible to…a handicap we are all susceptible to.

The higher one goes in life, especially in government, the greater the capacity for self-delusion…meaning it is hard to get contradictory views and contradictory advice.  You have to be aggressive in seeking it out.  You have to search for contrary views.

He went on to say…

One of the most amazing things is when you go around the world, and meet as many leaders of different countries as I have, to see how often they are misinformed, uninformed, and often delusional about the circumstances in which they find themselves.  It is hard for leaders, and I mean it is especially hard for the President of the United States, to get a grip on reality. In other words, to get all the opposing views, to get a clear understanding to what’s occurring because you live in cocoon. You are surrounded by people who support what you say and don’t contradict what you say.  I believe a president must act aggressively to seek out contrary views.

Wow!  Reality check!

If you read about leadership, this is not a new or revolutionary principle.  But coming from such an astute personality, who more than anyone else has seen leaders from all over the world for over 30 years, makes it different to me!

Here are the lessons I wrote down for me to apply:

  • Don’t shun (in your heart), views that oppose yours.  Listen to them – full-heartedly.
  • If there are not opposing views to yours, seek them out – aggressively.
  • Work daily to quiet the story you tell yourself that, “What I know is true.”

Senator Mitchell’s advice starts and ends in wisdom and humility.  About a year ago I wrote down this affirmation I often read to remind myself that it is not all about me, and about what I know and think.  (I need to read it more often.)

All that I have has been given to me.
All that I know as right may be wrong.
All that I have I can lose.
Today could be my last day on earth.
I am just another human of tens of billions who have walked the earth.

Stay humble.

Be wise.

Seek ideas from outside of your cocoon – aggressively!

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

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3 Comments
  • Kathy Ryan
    Posted at 10:01h, 16 April Reply

    Wes…

    In the spirit of your post I would love to leave an opposing view, but I have to agree with you whole-heartedly. In my experience coaching leaders, many find themselves at some point in the position of being surrounded by “yes” men. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to be challenged, but more often I see it being the result of having success and settling into a comfortable routine.

    I think it’s natural to somewhat limit your trusted inner circle to those people who share your views. But you lose something when you gain that level of harmony. As leaders it is our responsibility to include individuals as advisors who are not afraid to tell the “emperor that he is naked” or to disagree with our positions. We need it. If we do not have access or listen to people who present opposing views, who challenge us to articulate our reasoning and consider other options, we are doomed to mediocrity.

    Thank you for encouraging the conversation!

    Kathy

    • Wes Saade
      Posted at 10:00h, 17 April Reply

      Kathy, Thank you for the comment… With your experience in the HR world and as a leadership consultant, I know you have seen this process first hand. Also as the author or a great book that talks about how to handle the difficult conversation – “you have to say the words” – I know that you truly believe in the need for all of us as leaders to live this message!! thanks!

  • JCurtis
    Posted at 20:35h, 18 April Reply

    Great affirmation W…. Humble and true….. I like the idea to keep ones personal course true…. Thanks for all of the hard work on the blog…It means alot…

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