Leaders Control the Switch

Leaders Control the Switch

Patrick Jinks

Patrick Jinks

We are always in unprecedented times, are we not? Every political election seems to out-crazy the one before it. And the crazy tone of humanity ramps up accordingly. Civility seems to be vanishing. That’s where leadership comes in — OUR leadership.

Leaders set the tone.  Regardless of our political ideology, we in the social sector MUST demonstrate how to be civil — how to have the tough conversations — how to disagree — how to listen to opposing points of view — how to open our minds — how to stand for justice without being disrespectful of others’ legitimate points of view and perspectives.

I once enjoyed a rare couple of hours over a beer with the great Marshall Goldsmith (leadership coaching fans will know exactly who that is — those who don’t, look him up!). He shared with me that for a leader, it’s “always, always, always, always, always, always — ALWAYS showtime.” We are always being watched. We control the switch. We turn the light on, or we darken the room. We control the volume, the tone, and even the content of the conversation. And he reminded me that jumping on social media and ranting against the people we disagree with is not separate from our professional leadership lives. As leaders, we don’t get that luxury.

I am still learning and listening — and trying to remind myself that I am as stubborn and self-absorbed in my own perspectives as anyone else. Being conscious of that — admitting it — is an important step in changing it.

Goldsmith once conducted a study with his Harvard colleagues. The question:  What percentage of all workplace conversation is either lifting up oneself, or putting down someone else? The answer…. a whopping 65%. The solution:  Stop those conversations!

We are in a unique position as social sector leaders, and certainly as Blue Ridgers, to make a difference. Let’s protect each other by keeping each other accountable for the tones we foster. Someone is always watching.

What are YOUR thoughts? How can we do this?


  • Ann V Deaton Posted June 16, 2016 1:24 pm

    Patrick, I appreciated your post, and your focus on leadership in the social sector. As you point on, a leader is always being watched as a role model and example for others. You have to walk your talk. Also worth remembering is the fact that no one person knows all that he or she needs to know. One of the greatest challenges of a leader is to access both confidence and humility, the latter being especially important when we are sure we know the answer. There is always more to learn if we are curious, humble, and willing to listen.

  • Patrick Jinks Posted May 18, 2016 9:17 pm

    Wow! Great tip Dave! I think there is a caveat though. It depends on what you think is good for your children to see. I know people who would be proud to have their children watch as they verbally cut through someone’s point of view to make a bigger point.

    That being said, I think I am going to start trying your technique! Thanks!

  • Dave Parker Posted May 18, 2016 8:18 pm

    Great post, Patrick. A trick I try to use in the moment, when I feel myself not being my best self, getting off-center, is to imagine my kids are watching me, watching how I comport myself. It’s a useful check, at least for me. I can say for sure that the time I have with everyone at BRI, and the interactions with BRI friends I have throughout the year, are terrific ‘centering’ opportunities.

  • Kevin Tomson-Hooper Posted May 18, 2016 8:02 pm

    Thanks Patrick, I’ll be sharing this with others for sure. I am so tired (as I am sure we all are) of the political bantering going on and it’s only May! ????

  • Grace Alfiero Posted May 16, 2016 5:36 pm

    OMG! Patrick! I was just saying similar words to someone this morning on my commute to a client’s office! Totally true!! Thanks for this poignant post! I’m definitely sharing!

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