Similar to how I feel about success and performance, I believe that when it comes to dealing with trauma or chaos, it's best to slow down and get connected with your own truth. This is increasingly challenging in our modern day world, with everyone having access to a stage and being able to broadcast their thoughts.
When it comes to processing the events of last week, there are a few themes that I think are worth contemplating--all stemming from the foundation of great leadership.
1. Be aware of your biases.
Bias is defined as an "inclination or outlook to present or hold a partial perspective, often accompanied by a refusal to consider the possible merits of alternative points of view." We are all biased; it's part of being human. Our biases are determined by our culture, our upbringing and our exposure or lack of exposure to certain things.
However, most of us are not conscious of our biases. Therefore, it can be easy to think your perspective is right and that others' are wrong. Great leaders are aware of their biases and work against them when possible. It's hard to think about things that are in direct opposition to your world view, but if you do, you'll be able to understand and connect with more people. This will lead to productive, positive change.
2. Stay curious.
Curiosity is a critical characteristic for leaders of the future. Why? A constantly changing world calls for continued innovation. And innovation comes from a diversity of ideas, which necessitates of a genuine level of curiosity.
More than anything, curiosity is what this election calls for. Curiosity allows you to understand something you may not have understood before. Curiosity doesn't feel like an attack on someone else; it's the complete opposite--an invitation. What better antidote to fear and anger than knowledge and understanding?
3. Channel optimism.
If you watch President Obama's speech the day after the election, you'll notice that his message was optimistic. Optimism breeds hope, and great leadership often comes down to inspiring others to be their best selves.
I am a die-hard optimist and always have been. I understand those that aren't may think that optimism can be fantasy-based, but being optimistic is good for you. A growing number of scientific studies suggest optimistic people tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health than pessimistic people. It's your choice, but consciously staying in an optimistic state will feel better than thinking the end of the world is near.
4. Emphasize compassion.
When I think of compassionate leaders, I think of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela: two individuals that were targets of hate, violence, and fear. At pivotal points in their lives, they chose to respond with compassion towards their opposition.
When you fight violence with violence and fear with fear, then nothing moves forward. I think the ironic aspect of this election is that both sides are guilty of spewing vitriol, name-calling, and fighting fire with fire. It's harder to move to a place of compassion, but in the long run, that wins. Michelle Obama said it best when she said, "When they go low, we go high." I don't think either side has lived up to that vision in the midst of their pain.