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Ed O'Malley

Ed O'Malley

A former state legislator and gubernatorial aide, Ed O’Malley is President and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center, a first-of-its-kind training center charged with fostering large-scale civic leadership for healthier communities. He tweets at eomalley.

The price of progress

Ten bucks says most people who answer "yes" to the question "Do we need more Joe Liebermans?" support Lieberman's position on the health-care legislation, calling it a principled stand, and those who answer "no" oppose his position, preferring to think of him as a political scumbag. Perhaps they could agree there is at least one big lesson we can learn from Lieberman's recent behavior: Handling conflict and being willing to disappoint others are often critical behaviors needed for real progress on what you care about.

Lieberman showed tremendous tenacity at managing himself throughout the negotiations. It can't be easy when people are organizing protests against you and colleagues are deriding your engagement. It could have been much easier for Lieberman to simply go along like most of the other 60 votes, garnering a little home-state pork along the way (e.g. Senator Dodd maneuvering to fund a hospital in his home state). Instead, he took the more conflictual path, disappointed many colleagues and appears to have secured what he was after.

For many, fear of conflict constrains action. How often does the fear of conflict get in your way of advocating for what you care most about? I am not sure if Lieberman cared most about a principled stand or simply his reelection bid, but either way he didn't allow the fear of conflict to get in the way of advancing his purpose.

How often do you subordinate your voice in a meeting because you don't want to be the lone voice of opposition? When conflict does emerge, how often do you simply hope it goes away rather than dig into the underlying reasons for the conflict? Better yet, when does your behavior actually surface conflict? Lieberman was portrayed as being a road block. Would you be willing to be a road block as a way of demanding progress on something you care about in your work, family or community?

Take caution if Lieberman has inspired you to wade into conflict or, heaven forbid, even initiate it! You need to know what you are getting yourself into. The bitter criticism he received simply foreshadows what the naysayers will say about you. It's the price of progress on issues you care most about. I'll bet you 10 bucks on it.

By Ed O'Malley

 |  December 23, 2009; 1:47 PM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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