Thursday, June 28, 2012

"See, I am sending you out as sheep..."-Matt 10:16

The White House was our intended destination this morning, however, at 8:30am when we arrived, it was in lockdown mode. No tours today due to a change in the President's daily schedule.  What pray tell ask the sheep, is going on today? Well, over at the Supreme Court they are going to announce a major ruling, a ruling that will have a major impact on the President's legacy, one that is very divisive in American politics today. Oh, and by the way, this afternoon the Attorney General will likely be held in contempt of congress, just for good measure. 

The White House trip thwarted, we moved east, back towards the Capitol and eventually, the Supreme Court building. There thousands were gathered on the steps and on the lawns across the street.  Passionate supporters of both sides screaming and yelling.  On one side impassioned pleas were made "Healthcare for All!" and on the other "Don't let America become the USSR!"(these are but a couple of the many I heard and in no way reflect the nuance of the debate) 
But that is the deal, protest isn't about the nuance of debate. Protest is about making noise! One of the major lessons that our Organizational Leadership professor has driven home this week is the challenge of leaders to manage the 20-60-20 rule. 20% will love your new idea, 20% are gonna hate it...the trick is, you gotta manage the 60% and build consensus, if you want results. The problem is, most folks spend their time on the fringes, bouncing back and forth between the 20%'s and never focus on the compromise and challenge of growing the connection to the 60%. As we walked around today, I heard people yelling back and forth about how right they were, but the reality is, no one on those steps was going to be convinced to change their mind. They knew exactly what they thought before they showed up, and exactly what they would think when they left. That isn't governing and that isn't leading, leading is finding a solution, a way to get something together so that the 60% can get on board. But this takes compromise.

Our congressional host this evening for the our private tour, Congressman Lankford of Oklahoma (who was very generous with his time tonight), reminded us of this reality. "You can have a great idea, and maybe you can get 100 others to agree it is a great idea, but in the house you must have 218 folks on board to get anything done." He is absolutely right. How do you reach the 60%, how do you get to 218? You have to compromise (a lesson frankly the Congressman can continue to learn looking at his legislative record). 
But this is the problem, while our system demands compromise and conversation, so many of our folks just want to yell their talking points at one another. They fire up their 20% who love them and whoever's 20% show up more on election day, that is who wins. In a 24 hour news cycle that is how you make money on the radio, and that is how you win elections, but it is not how you lead. 

After such an intense day. It was heartening to take a moment and spend some quiet time tonight in the Capitol building itself. Again, Congressman Lankford (a Texas native and UT grad), was generous with his time and allow us access to areas we otherwise would not have seen. And insights into his own style of leadership and learning as a freshman congressman. As we toured into the Rotunda, I asked Lankford (a Baptist) if he knew the story of the only Lutheran that I knew whose picture was in a painting in the Rotunda. 

And low and behold,  he did! He immediately recited for me the story of J. Peter Muhlenberg, a clergyman turned soldier and later senator. Whose brother Frederick (who was a pacifist and encouraged his brother not to join the revolutionary fight until his own church was burned down by the British) would become the first speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Muhlenberg appears in the painting here, the second man on horseback in formation observing Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown.
Why is Muhlenberg interesting to me in this conversation about the 20-60-20? He is interesting because he had his convictions about what he believed to be right yet although one of God's sheep he knew that there were wolves and he would have to be wise in his dealings with them.  Although a Lutheran, in Virginia the state required that only Anglican churches were allowed so Muhlenberg went to England and was ordained. He began to build his coalition, to reach beyond the 20%.

After moving to Virginia, certainly there were those who thought a Clergyman should not be doing what he was doing (especially his brother). Yet he continued his training and made his commitment. His work was such that when he knew it was time to make the commitment, he not only brought himself, but convinced 300 others from his congregation to join as well. And eventually, his brother joined the fight. 

Leadership requires much more than giving grand speeches to the already converted. Of yelling out how right you are on the steps of a building to the already convinced of the other side. Leadership requires building coalitions, being wise and serpents and gentle as doves. I am grateful today to live in this country.  A country where the rule of law remains, where people can protest and say whatever they desire about our leaders and one another and be protected. Where the military doesn't move in for a coup whenever there is turmoil. 

But I also believe we need leaders in this country like Muhlenberg. Who will build coalitions and not just look to the 20% who immediately support them. Who will reach out to the 60%, move towards solutions, not just party lines. Who will be creative and find opportunity to work together. That is leadership.

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