Navigating Controversy: The Power of Self-Awareness in Leadership

It’s a master skill to truly say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you’re a living breathing human being and you’ve been in any type of personal relationship you know what I’m talking about.

When I observe things getting heated in an interaction, I can’t help but want to dig deeper into what people really mean when they throw around certain words or phrases. My curiosity may be tinged with a touch of bias or judgment at times, but if we’re being honest, whose isn’t?

Whether online or in live conversations, I notice people becoming frustrated and emotional when discussing topics without taking the time to clearly define what they are debating about.

Taken from an Education blog: There is a quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw that follows along the lines “Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language”. Whether or not the attribution is or isn’t Shaw’s, the point is that even though we use the same words, those words can (and often do) have quite distinctly different meanings because of our cultural differences1

What strikes me as ironic about this excerpt is that this issue is prevalent right here in the United States. People often have preconceived notions about the meanings of words, yet they fail to take a moment to inquire with a straightforward question:

“Will you please share your interpretation of ________ when you say it?” (DEI/TikTok ban/life is hard/no one is hiring/everyone sucks/being authentic).

Insert any term that could be misinterpreted, and take a moment to reflect on whether you tend to jump to conclusions about its meaning before seeking clarification from the person who used it.

PSA y’all: all we have is our own little (sometimes unconscious) brains to draw conclusions, and make judgments or discernments about what’s going on around us. 

Our behaviors are simply products of our interpretations, belief systems, and values. We’re going to treat people the way we treat ourselves. Is that through a filter of compassion and acceptance, or is that through a filter of fear, doubt, shame and envy? 

In leadership development, slowing down to be intentional in our communication takes an immense dedication to better self-awareness. Self-awareness for our values, our beliefs, our mental models, and how we are presenting ourselves at work. 

As we like to say here at Vim and Vibe, and as reflected in the work we produce: start with yourself.