Friday, August 12, 2016

taking it off the table

In my readings this summer, I have delved into two book by James Ellis - Founding Quartet and Founding Brothers.  The origination of the United States of America, especially the years leading up to the ratification of the Constitution, is a fascinating study in leadership, dialogue, and compromise.  One of the most striking items for me is the decision of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention to take the issue of slavery off the table.  They knew that if slavery became an all-or-nothing issue, the colonies would be split and there would be no union - the south and north would have divided then and there.  While I cannot imagine the angst this decision caused among many of the delegates from the north, I do understand their need to push forward to form a country out of disparate colonies and ideas.

So how might leaders know when to take an item off the table, even if it is near and dear to their hearts - and especially when there are moral and ethical issues involved?  Here are a few thoughts:

    • determine what is THE most important issue being decided on at the time...and let that issue trump all others
    • have a long-term goal and vision in mind, and let that guide the decision making process
    • determine what will carry greater weight - the institution or the individual
    • think deeply about what it is that causes one side to believe something that is so opposite and different from what you there any way you might be able to understand the other point of view?
    • consider what causes the most harm to the most people for the greatest length of time
    • understand the vocation to which the group making the decision is called - another way of determining the most important issue being decided on at the time
    • seek counsel for multiple entities...listen deeply to what they have to say...and then make a decision to move forward
What IF slavery had not been taken off the table?  What if these United States had not been united and formed several different countries?  There are many opinions to this day what night have been if different decisions had been made in the late 1700s.  What I will remember most about the founding fathers is that they made very difficult decisions together all the while knowing that they had sharp disagreements over fundamental matters.  And that's what leaders do - make decisions in the midst of difficult situations.  What are you willing to take off the table to move your institution (and life) forward?

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