Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Blessed are the Peacemakers..."

This week's topic is conflict resolution. Every leader needs to know how to handle conflict because no matter what he or she leads, there will be conflict. It's everywhere, and it's necessary. That's right! Not all conflict is bad. In fact, there is much GOOD in conflict. It can encourage (sometimes force) communication between people of different backgrounds or beliefs and reveal weaknesses in plans or ideas. It's like building a muscle--in order to become stronger, things have to be torn and built back up. Constructive conflict is hard to come by, however; our natural instinct is to protect ourselves and our ideas, lashing out or running away rather than being patient and calm and trying to figure things out. Constructive conflict begins within ourselves, NOT with the other person!

As a kid, I would get into a lot of conflict with my siblings. We were atrocious when it came to disagreements, and they would get very vocal. I can remember how frustrated my mom used to get when we fought, especially when it was over pointless or frivolous things, like who got the front seat in the car, or when someone's favorite spot on the couch was stolen.
The one thing I remember most from this week's presentation was

"The Peacemaking Pyramid"

The point our speaker made was that we generally invert the pyramid so Correcting is where we spend most of our time, rather than Heart of Peace. Heart of peace is based on behavior--we are supposed to cultivate a heart of peace within ourselves, rather than a heart of war. We can do this by treating people as actual people, rather than objects or tools for our gain.

A great example of this (inspired by my brilliant and wonderful T.A.'s examples in class) is found in the movie "The Emperor's New Groove," a Disney movie I recently watched. In this movie, the emperor is a spoiled 18-year-old who is a jerk, to put it lightly. He only cares about himself, about his happiness, and this is a major problem to everyone but him. Well, one day he gets turned into a llama and kidnapped by a woman he had insulted immensely. Then he meets a man named Pacha, a llama herder, and demands that this peasant take him back to his palace. Well, since the emperor (named Kuzco) recently told Pacha he was destroying his village to build a summer getaway for himself, Pacha refuses to comply with Kuzco's demands. They are forced together when Pacha gives in to his conscience and rescues Kuzco from a vicious pack of panthers, and through their many adventures together, they form a strong bond of everlasting friendship and eventually, Kuzco becomes human again, decides not to destroy Pacha's village, and all ends happily.

However, the point is that in the beginning, Emperor Kuzco saw people as tools to create his happiness; he was always criticizing and being utterly selfish. By the end however, he learned to see others as real people with needs and hopes and dreams, and he begins to be more considerate of their views and feelings.

Returning to the pyramid, it is important that we focus on the lower values, the base values, before the higher ones. If we are always correcting others and never fixing our own problems, we are being hypocrites and no one will follow our lead. If there is a problem at one level, it is the level(s) below it that need to be worked on. And our overall effectiveness depends on how we operate on the most basic and most essential level: that of our way of being, or how we treat other people.

No matter what capacity I serve in through my life, I must always first address any flaws that might be within myself or in my perception of the people I serve. One thing I particularly liked in the leadership book I'm reading is a quote. It basically says that leaders are always talking about "my people," when in reality it should be "the people I serve." This similar but crucially different perspective is what makes a good leader. Instead of seeing these people as objects to own, it is important to see them as receivers of service with individual, human value. When we reach this point is when people will want to follow us, and we become successful leaders.

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