Creative Leadership

Leaders: The Importance of Being Switzerland

I went to a high school in the South in a city that was selected by a federal judge to be a model city for “busing.”  For those of you old enough to remember, forced busing was the federal program that attempted to make public schools more racially balanced.  Kids were bused miles and miles away from their home in order to achieve more black/white balance across the board throughout the district.  While it’s goals were noble, it was tough because of the times we lived in.

It uprooted both black and white students and since it was 1969, riots often broke out on school grounds.  Those riots were serious and I saw kids get tossed through plate glass windows, students cut up, all out brawls, and more.

So early on, as much as possible, I decided to be Switzerland.  I was an athlete, and had friends on both sides of the black/white divide.  I knew I would get much more accomplished being friends with everyone rather than alienating one side or the other. If I could bring both sides to the table, that was the win for me and for the school.

That experience taught me a valuable lesson. Never be afraid to take a stand, however in business, there are always office politics, and for a million reasons, it’s best to avoid that mess.  On a film set, in a classroom, in a corporation – wherever you possibly can, extend a palm leaf to everyone. Do your best to bring each side to the table, otherwise, nothing will be accomplished.

Don’t compromise your values or morals, but wherever possible, be Switzerland.  You never know who your next ally might be, or who you need to reach out to.  And most important, remember that whoever you meet on the way up, you see once again on the way down.

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  1. Great advice Phil! Stay out of office politics; you can’t fight City Hall. Pursue peace whenever it is up to you. Choose your battles carefully; it could cost you more than you intended to pay. Extend kindness to everyone, no matter how you FEEL. Don’t take sides; you will still have to work with the “other side” tomorrow, and the next day, and…. Smile often; people respond positively to a smiling face. Don’t burn bridges; you may need to cross them to advance your future.

  2. Same thing applies to how you treat your competitors. If you work in a certain field, chances are at some piont you’ll end up working with a former competitor.  Hopefully, you’ll have taken the high road in all your previous business dealings.

    Your good name is invaluable.  (Prov 22:1)



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