The Courage To Be Disliked

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“When we least expect it, life sets up a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” 

Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

I read a book with this title (The Courage to Be Disliked) about psychiatrist Alfred Adler and I highly recommend it. We use Adler’s model; a major departure from what is often held to be “common sense”. The author states Adler is at least 100 years ahead of his time; I have always said the same. The title refers to the courage it takes to think outside of a fixed belief (and power) system the majority of people operate within based in scarcity, fear and self-interest. Most people think and do what the herd does. And that “common sense” is the reason we are, and have been, in so much trouble.

Operating by freedom WITH responsibility rather than control

We have had centuries of using extrinsic motivators to get desired behavior from others; being autocratic and using incentives, praise, shaming, and spoiling, all in an effort to create compliance. Freedom WITH responsibility requires first that we like people (including ourselves), that we are grateful for personal power, acknowledge and celebrate it, draw upon the inherent good in people, help each to clarify purpose, and adopt behaviors that achieve it. This requires a favorable and optimistic view of people rather than one in which they are not trusted, and instead are judged as selfish, lazy, worth less than others, and must be frightened, praised, bribed, and shamed subtly or overtly to act maturely. The shift I refer to is no easy feat.

Understanding what it means to be an effective and life-giving authority 

In my culture transformation process, people face their limiting and faulty beliefs about authority, and learn how to effectively lead others (including children, co-workers or the boss, even if one is not a recognized “authority figure.”) What most people don’t realize is that if they want to be influential with anyone else, they must first uncover and resolve issues they have, related to authority. We all carry more baggage about this than we know and it’s crucial we come to new conclusions and behaviors concerning authority.

When nice is really mean

I often find leaders afraid of being autocratic (rightly so) but then use incentives, judgements (including criticism and praise), pampering and avoidance and self-sacrifice instead. They are afraid of being “mean,” “rocking the boat,” and think these choices are viable alternatives. They are not. In their efforts to be nice (usually an unconscious cover for playing it “safe”) they rob others of becoming empowered, lovable, connected and contributing – AND they don’t know they do this.

A great example of this is in the 1962 movie The Miracle Worker, about Helen Keller (Patty Duke) and her new teacher Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft). This movie is a dramatic example of how one loving family offered pity and permissiveness that kept Helen Keller disempowered, unknowable, and unable to fully connect and contribute. What’s most important is the obvious courage within her teacher Annie Sullivan who neither pities nor pampers, nor sets out to hurt Helen, but rather, consistently demonstrates determination and a clear vision of the best outcome for her student (and the larger community) despite inconvenience, attacks and challenges. She remains strong until breakthrough. In this movie, it is obvious the courage required to not only choose a less-traveled path, but to stand up to one’s convictions with full commitment, despite what can become avid confrontations and scathing criticisms. 

More than ever, our world needs strong, intelligent and effective leadership within every person beginning in infancy. This requires that each of us pray and seek to be released from – the need for love, acceptance and approval from others because effective leadership is still not often understood nor welcomed and our need for these things from others often makes us uncommitted and ineffectual.

Your leadership and development of leadership in all, IS our future hope.  Join me in being a powerful, caring leader who creates other powerful, caring leaders too.

As published nationally in the column The Extraordinary Workplace in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, April 2019

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