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John Baldoni
Leadership author

John Baldoni

John Baldoni is a leadership consultant, coach, and regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review online. His most recent book is Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up.

Compromise is not for sissies

Q: President Obama took great pains to highlight the "unbreakable bonds" between Israel and the US and downplayed tension with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday. When is it helpful for leaders to paper over differences in public?

We live in the age of gotcha!

Seldom does a week go by without some person in authority making a faux pas in words or deed. Such behaviors make for political punditry and late night comedy but they do not contribute to creating a climate for honest dialogue. Rather it fuels already supercharged partisanship that is based on dissent and division rather than comity and compromise.

Consequently compromise is seen as a weakness. It is viewed by partisans on either side as betrayal of ideology rather than as a means of getting along with each other. The current issue of American Heritage magazine focuses on compromises that shaped our national history. Our nation came together in a spirit of compromise, north and south, mercantile and agrarian, to forge the world's first modern republic. Sadly it was the failure of compromise that led to our Civil War but it was compromise that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Bill a century later.

To be honest it is hard to feel inclined to compromise when for many people things are going plainly wrong. We are enduring the worst recession since the Great Depression. There is a pervasive feeling that nothing government does works. And even worse nothing that business does is right either. Eight million jobs have been lost in the last few years and the vast majority of those were private sector jobs.

Nothing seems to sum up our sense of helplessness more than the endless spewing of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and the ineptitude of the private and public sectors to prevent widespread ecological and economic damage. People are fed up and want more than answers; they want solutions.

Compromise is not for the faint of heart; it takes guts to work with people with whom you disagree. When the problems are significant, recall what Henry Ford once said. "Don't find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain."

Toward that end I would like to see our leaders adopt a three questions approach to problem solving:
• What are the issues that divide us?
• What are the issues that unite us?
• What can each of us do to find solutions that improve the lives of those we lead?

When people of different opinions and ideas come together to solve problems rather than create more, they demonstrate that they value constructive dialogue over divisive partisanship. Better yet, they demonstrate that they are willing put aside differences in order to find solutions that benefit others, perhaps more than themselves.

Common purpose calls for common sense but there cannot be any sense if people are not willing to listen without prejudice to what others have to say. "One who cannot dance blames the floor" goes the Hindu proverb. And so it is with too many of our leaders who seem unwilling to do the hard business of governance when it is so much easier (not to mention expedient) to point the finger of blame.


By John Baldoni

 |  July 8, 2010; 10:23 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Compromise requires both sides.
Compromise is specific to the issues at hand.

How did an objective application of a business principle remind anybody of the anti-s idea? Too many Hollywood movies maybe?

I'm tired of people bringing in the anti-semitic word where it does not belong.

In fact, recently, it suddenly dawned on me that in the Biblical story, Abraham and Sarah technically committed a felony of rape and child abandonment on Hagar and her son. I started wondering why those concepts never rang a bell to me before for the hundreds or thousands of times I read the biblical story. Isn't the answer "God told Abraham that Ismael would be OK"! Is that the only reason why all of us who grew up with a Judaic Christian background thought it must be OK.

Yet, in modern law court, that will not be a valid defense, to state a subjective belief that the abandonment will not be effective because God said so? Shouldn't it have sounded like the dog ate my homework before--- why had it never sounded like that for me previously???

Aren't all our conscience blunted and distorted, in a way that is indefensible in the 21st century? indefensible if America has any aspiration to remain the most influential leader in a world of burgeoning diversity of perspectives?

If fundamentalist groups defend the violation of human rights of children, women and vulnerable human beings,

aren't they defending them on untenable biblical terms, completely contradictory to the fundamental biblical concept of "Love thy neighbor as yourself."

And as far as whether the discussion, open disagreement is invited by Netanyahu, more than anybody else--- the open, notorious snubbing of Joe Biden, the unreasonable retort against Obama who had been more lenient than most with Israel.

Just look at Netanyahu going on American TV, bypassing our President to distract from their recent reneging on the promise of allowing aid ship deliver aid. Netanyahu reminds of McCrystal bypassing all the usual channels, and choosing the MOST non-confidential format to address theh American people.

Netanyahu OPENED THE DOOR for all Americans to comment on his sincerity, credibility, and credentials to call himself an American ally.

It makes me wonder what priority American wellbeing and interests hold on Israel's list?
Is it even in the top 5, top 3, or even out of the top ten on his lists?

Posted by: Joallen8 | July 11, 2010 4:23 PM
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What crap! I can't stomach the Israelis, and I do not believe they had any right to take Palestine, but I would not invoke the anti-Semite Henry Ford, I'm not that stupid.

Posted by: AIPACiswar | July 11, 2010 10:23 AM
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