Another school shooting… this time at Stoneman Douglas High School. Welcome to life in “the greatest country on earth” in the 21st century. We “the people” have abdicated control of our government because a large percentage of us want something done about guns in America. Congress languishes in their own self-preservation, paralyzed with fear of not being re-elected – fear of losing their power and prestige, while abandoning their duty and responsibility. Isn't protecting it's citizens the most important purpose of government? More to the point, isn't protecting our children of primary importance to us as a people? If so, then we have a failed government and societal calamity.
Meanwhile, the tiny nation of New Zealand put America to shame by acting swiftly and decisively – demonstrating how government should work.
On March 16, 2019 there was a horrific shooting in New Zealand - their first in decades. On March 19 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said "Our gun laws will change."
On April 10, less than a month later, New Zealand's parliament voted 119 to 1 in favor of changing the country's gun laws. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told lawmakers they were giving "a voice" to those killed in the Christchurch massacre.
Perhaps more distressing than the cowardice of our politicians in America is the fact that any attempt at gun control will be futile. There are more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States.Even if no other gun were ever bought by anyone in America, we’d still have enough guns for every man, woman and child to own one and then have 67 million guns left over. Those numbers come from the latest edition of the global Small Arms Survey a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. They render America incapable of rendering any meaningful results because for generations to come, anyone that really wants a gun will be able to get one. Even if Congress and the President summoned the strength to act, whatever laws they might be able to pass would not solve the problem. We, and our children, and our children’s children will live in the midst of a well-armed powder keg for generations to come - let’s hope nothing sparks a "fire" because it would be devastating.
Going beyond the differences of opinion among “normal” Americans, there are religious zealots and the mentally ill to fear. I don't think there's any disagreement that Stephen Paddock who murdered 59 people randomly in Las Vegas in 2017 was mentally ill. By definition he was. I don’t know what percent of adults are mentally ill (sometimes it seems like a majority, right?) but even if it's .01% it's scary. 1% of 1% of the population of America is approximately 32,000 people and any one of them can get their hands on guns if they want to.
I’m not a gun owner myself but I do think people should be allowed to own guns and as a practical matter I cannot see any way that gun ownership is going to change in America. As I contemplate "What can we do about this problem?" I think we need a new approach. As a long-term solution I submit that we have to look for ways to raise the level of respect for life in America. Teach how devastating loosing someone to random violence is. Encourage, beseech ALL Americans to love and respect one another.
I'm not saying this will solve the problem but I do think we should bolster an appreciation for the sanctity of life in our education system and in our daily lives. Let's demonstrate mutual respect and tolerance. We have to counteract the damaging effects of video games that count “kills” as points and where the idea is to destroy as many people as possible.
I am not an education professional but I think emphasizing the massive efforts that we human beings make to preserve a single life would really help. For example, in the case of those boys lost in a cave - a mining accident where dozens of people and tons of equipment are brought in (with no regard for the cost) to help save the people in danger. This shows how we, the human race, despite the fact that there are over 7 billion people on the planet, value every single life because life is a miracle. Life is an amazing gift. In many parts of India and during formal occasions, it is common for people to greet with the traditional Hindu greeting of “Namaste” (‘I greet the divine within you’) accompanied with a nod of the head or a bow in recognition that every person is important... that we are all connected spiritually. I think we need to spread that kind of thinking. I try to do it with everyone I come into contact with.
Let’s teach every day that life is precious. Let’s demonstrate our highest ideals through mutual respect and true caring for one another. We may have lost the quantitative battle over gun control let’s win the qualitative battle and instill and encourage a mutual appreciation of the best and highest qualities in one another and value every life..
Reach out - I'd like to hear your thoughts.
Random Thoughts and Writings
An Important Leadership Trait - Precision in Language.
People listen to Leaders. The primary tool of leadership is communications. Communicating what is in your mind as leader, to the other members of your Team is vitally important. Being "close" doesn't cut it. You want to hit the target precisely as often as possible.
In this day and age of mega-information, most “leaders” lack the discipline required for a prime trait of leadership – “Precision in Language.”
NEWSFLASH – Words have meaning. Meaning is what people search for when they listen to someone speak. Consider your words carefully and communicate thoughtfully. Nobody is 100% and we all have to “take something back” from time to time but strive to make that the exception rather than the rule. When people learn that they can count on you to be careful with language they will listen more attentively.
Another lost art today is to be concise. This goes along with precision in language because it also requires forethought. Arguably the greatest speech ever given in America, The Gettysburg Address was only 273 words (approximately, as there are multiple versions recorded). It took Lincoln only minutes to deliver his carefully crafted message and yet it galvanized the North and provided inspiration at a desperate time in our nation’s history.
Don’t devalue your words by using too many of them. Don’t say "approximately what you mean" and require the person or people you are speaking with to extrapolate.
Be concise and precise and watch the effectiveness of your communications soar.
Honor, Integrity and Character
People respect men and women that care about the truth - people who feel that their word is their bond.
The Leadership Distinction
Leadership is behavior that elicits other people to voluntarily move in the predetermined and desired direction set by the person leading. The leadership distinction is that people being led move voluntarily. That is the litmus test you can apply to determine if leadership is present. People want to follow leaders but have to do what their "boss" tells them. If the followers are compelled to do something, it isn't leadership, it's authority.
It is possible to use leadership while in an authoritative role. Leadership is a tool. Even if you have authority, you can still be a leader. Your people may well be motivated by a combination of fear and inspiration. When they want to do what you need them to do, the outcomes will always be better.
Leadership is attraction and pulls people toward the goal for some mutual benefit (satisfaction). Authority pushes and mandates and threatens. Pushing people produces resistance.
There was a recent survey that found that 20% of American workers are actively seeking to undermine management objectives and organizational goals in the company where they work. They are being pushed, not led.
The challenge is that leadership takes a lot more time and effort. It’s so much easier to say “Just do it.” Fatigue makes us sloppy, even when we care. Understanding is vital for team members to “buy in.” I can remember conversations in the conference room that took hours trying to set conceptual foundations. But once those are in place the direction is set forever.
Involvement is important in leadership. Leadership is hard work and it considers the feelings and thinking of your Team members. Leadership is a process with Caring and it's core and cooperation as it's driving force.
A key skill is giving (sometimes overly enthusiastic) credit for "new" ideas to your Team. "That's a really good idea Mike. Let's do it Mike's way everybody." Mike is on board. His associates feel a part of the process.
Urgency (though sometimes required) creates a drag on leadership. “Haste makes waste” in all things. Building up a “bank account” of good will through genuine caring and leadership in action is a wise investment. You can draw from that account when time is limited and say, “I just need you to do it this way for me this time, OK?” because your people trust and believe in you. If you find yourself having to take that posture (or something similar) often, that’s a sign you need to do more foundational work.
Leadership engages everyone and creates organizational synergy. Alignment of individual interests with the organizations interests releases creativity and enthusiasm. Leaders inspire and structure projects and entire companies with the philosophical underpinning and cultural "cross-beam" - “We’re all in this together.”
Leadership is ultimately action that affects other people – unless it is affecting others – or eventually affects others – it’s not leadership. Leadership is not inherently good (although we tend to think of it that way because we admire it). It is a tool and can be used for good (Gandhi) or evil (Hitler). Each man used leadership communications to move people in the direction he wanted them to go.
Authority is different from leadership. Authority uses fear and punishment as its engines. Leadership inspires. Though both can be effective, I hope the distinction is not lost and that you will strive to elicit the best from your people and have them want to contribute – it’s a much higher level approach.