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A Third Way

I am not usually drawn into the fray of what’s happening in Washington, but I have to admit a certain level of frustration and disheartening in the wake of the government shutdown. According to October’s Washington Post-ABC News poll, I am not alone.  85% of Americans disapprove of the way congress is doing its job. The president’s approval and likability ratings are at an all time low. I don’t want to get wrapped up the political process, and I don’t want to advocate a side, but can we call a spade a spade? The intractability of our disagreements are leaving most of us wanting for something better.

When facing disagreement or division, our initial human tendency is to respond by redoubling our efforts in support of our own position. Before pointing fingers towards Washington, can we acknowledge that we have all done the same thing with someone important in our lives, perhaps even those we love the most? Has this ever worked with your spouse or a close family member?  How about with peers or team members? Of course not, because an intractable stance is characteristic of less mature and less effective leadership.

Healthy, growth-oriented resolution never comes about as a result of one party winning and the other saying “Uncle!” Nor is it a result of a reluctant compromise, which usually ends in delayed animosity or an “I told you so.” No, the best resolutions come when we realize that somewhere amongst the values we hold in common there is a Third Way.

At the highest and most effect levels of Leadership Maturity, there is listening so the other feels heard. Listening well allows identification of those values we hold in common, and commonality is the foundation of effective resolution. There has been no crisis in our nation’s history where this has not held true. Our Founding Fathers, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, King, Reagan and others always found a Third Way grounded in commonality, not difference. I would posit that every great resolution of differences in your life and mine has followed this pattern as well.

Even at a fork in the road, we always have more in common than separates us. Let’s find it. It will make clear the Third Way.