Note to Self from Resilience

Dear Self,

Humans have an innate need to be led by leaders who provide integrity and honor. Some leaders provide; today, many leaders don’t, but they want you to assume that they do…or that they will. You may follow the leader, only to discover – to your dismay – that you’ve been misled. This is particularly problematic when you do not constructively question authority.

In the musical chairs of everyday life, you might presume the leader will save your seat. But integrity and honor cannot be assumed – not in the corporate C-Suite, not in a political race. Your adolescent (family of origin) psychology does not absolve you of the responsibility to grow up. The adult is a discerning independent thinker. You are responsible for finding your seat.

Your right to pursue happiness is ensured. You have to work at it. Fortunately, there is a solution to the enigma of misplaced trust and blind allegiance: It is your responsibility to manage your own outlook and attitude. You have the capacity to learn and to teach this.

Ironically, we tend to suffer, expecting tyrannical leaders to become just and fair – and long do we suffer such illusions. This is not a recent phenomenon. In 1776, the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence insightfully proclaimed, “…all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” They proceeded to constructively question authority, and declared independence from the tyrannical King of England.

It is very common to get hung up by the corrupting influence many people in authority roles offer for emulation. Today, the common culture in too many organizations – irrespective of profitability – is unwise and unsafe for human beings. Cultures of fear and anxiety are prevalent in many organizations, making employees feel threatened with excommunication. If this is your experience, you risk feeling undervalued and abused. If you aren’t conscious, it can become a self-fulfilling belief. The lemming leaps, but not mindfully.

Fortunately, there is a solution to excessively naive allegiance. You can ensure your strength and integrity by pressing forward with great self-respect. Respect your self above all – above politics, above superficial status and wealth, above rank and allegiance to false economies. You should:

1. Hold yourself with great self-respect. It is appropriate to respect your self above all. Just as loss of your sense of humor is a sign that you are off course, loss of self-respect signals a need for wiser navigation. Even in failure, you deserve to respect yourself. Press forward with great self-respect. There is not a healthy, long-term alternative.

2. Clarify your core social values that are the doctrine to “doing the right thing.” They are the foundation to peace, creativity, and civilization. Look to elder wisdom for guidance when clarifying your core values. Make your core values your guiding strategies for living.

3. Do the right thing, regardless of the “leader’s” opposition. Get over your tendency toward shame and guilt. Success in life requires learning continuously. This takes courage and independence. It is the hallmark of your heroism.

4. Speak up and speak out. Write with wisdom. Tell the truth. Insist on a far more discerning conversation about leadership, integrity and our future.

If you are concerned with placing limits on this advice, then consider that compassion and humility go hand-in-hand with self-respect. Maintain your compassion and your humility, too.

I believe in you. With independent adult discernment, you will succeed. If you are feeling frustrated and discouraged, call on me.

With very best regards,

Bruce W. Fritch contributed the “Life in the C-Suite” column in Charlatan Magazine.