Acceptance – A Leadership Challenge

                In the town where I live, there are two rather large divides across sections of the community.  The first is cultural, with a growing Hispanic population that is not well integrated into the town as a whole; the second is generational, with the older population striving to keep our town more historic and serene instead of growing with ‘box stores’.  Both of these problems are stifling the ability of our town to grow and may in fact cause it to shrink in population and revenue.  I sat down recently with the Director of the Chamber of Commerce to talk over some of my thoughts regarding these divides.

                One of the main hurdles to overcome is acceptance. This is a two-fold issue in regards to the cultural diversity – acceptance by the community for cultural differences and then acceptance by the Hispanic community of efforts to better join all members of the town together.  Acceptance though means trust.  We can only accept that which we trust either as safe or as truth. It comes down to leadership to establish the necessary trust relationship.  In this case, top down is the way to go.  The community leaders from all facets of the town have to work together to bridge the gaps.  By demonstrating the efforts and benefits of melding instead of isolating, leaders will set the example for others.  With an issue as emotional and personal as cultural diversity, it will take time and perseverance for trust and acceptance to build on both sides of the divide.  I believe that all of the community leaders see the value in the efforts but it will take a lot of work to build the necessary relationships for a long lasting and supportive community. 

                As mentioned above, cultural diversity is only half of the battle – the other half is generational.  The town has deep roots from the Civil War and the Route 66 era.  There are indications of the rich history all over which many people enjoy and want to maintain.  The issue is not that the community should destroy the history or cover it up, but there is a sentiment that if more industry or larger stores are brought in to the area that the quiet, peaceful nature of our town will be corrupted.  Again it is up to leaders to build the trust relationships with community members to prove the goal is to grow in meaningful ways while not forgetting our past.  It takes leadership to show that accepting growth for the future does not mean history is lost. 

– Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team 


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  1. #1 by Ikonographi on May 21, 2012 - 12:35 pm

    Such an excellent point that crosses so many important issues facing our society today. Leadership tends to fall into one of two broad catagories; either by example, or by force. Force need not be “rule of law”…it can be overwhelming pressure to accept a particular movement by the majority. I think the term is, “Tyranny of the Masses”.

    There can be no question that our society has experienced the most change across the fewest generations. People still living today recall when space travel was science fiction, and the “norm” was to enter a profession and stay there twenty years simply by doing one’s job well. Those of us who remember the birth of the Internet are occaisionally stunned by how much the lives of younger siblings or children are driven by the “Web”. All of us experience the strain of rapid changes in cultural acceptance as relates to traditional moral and social behaviors.

    Being a leader against this backdrop means first standing firm for your own principles…then demonstrating an ability to use them to prevent society from becoming trapped in a spiral of paralyzing enmity and mistrust.

    However-I disagree with the term “acceptance”

    The essence of leadership is accountability. If those who have a voice merely “buckle” under the ruling majority, then they are not “leading”, so much as “refereeing”. As pertains to this issue, the primary parties have valid, competing points. Undoubtedly, the change from “community” commerce to corporate consumerism will change the current social climate. Those who have lived mroe than half their lives anong that expectation will not simply “accept” a decision made by those outside of their mentality.

    • #2 by The Professional Development Team on May 21, 2012 - 12:54 pm

      Would you agree that the leaders must work to establish a trust relationship with the “historical” group? While it may be possible to accomplish growth without their approval, the community as a whole would be better served if this particular segment was onboard with the changes for the betterment of the whole town. This is the leadership challenge – turning the reluctance into acceptance (if not total agreement). Acceptance does not have to indicate spearheading or cheerleading the cause, it may mean simply not opposing the change.

  2. #3 by Geoff on May 22, 2012 - 5:07 am

    An excellent article and example of the need for leadership. Creating a successful outcome for the town is around building a vision that is based on the respective needs of all sections of the community. This in itself will require leadership to paint the picture of what might be possible and then have “buy in” from community leaders. A new vision will need to respect the history, consider the impact and value of new cultures and then be communicated to the town with appropriate collaboration. Acceptance comes with appreciation of the opportunities that this represents.

  3. #4 by Wayne Gaede on May 22, 2012 - 10:17 am

    Excellent article, and I appreciate the thoughtful reply to the first Comment. If only we could get more “leaders” to engage in such discussions!

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