It was a horrifying and despicable scene, the violent mob egged on by a sitting President, ransacking our Capitol to disrupt the final act of confirming the 2020 election results.

I used to live 6 blocks from the Capitol and briefed members of both Houses. To see those halls damaged was shocking. The loss of life deeply saddens me. I’m troubled by the state of affairs that led to this incident. 

A democracy is only as strong as the willingness of its people to protect it. Americans will need to rise to the occasion. 

The same divisive and intolerant practices that have characterized both sides of the partisan divide will not yield different results. 

Things can get much worse if we let them.

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What are some practical leadership takeaways? 

1. A leader serves everyone on the team.

There’s a difference between a demagogue and a leader. 

A demagogue is one who gains popularity by whipping-up animosities. 

A leader inspires each person to contribute their best to the team’s success.

You’ve met this standard when your most vulnerable employees feel the safety and confidence to contribute their best and most authentic selves.

2. Character counts. 

You don’t have to be perfect. The only people who’ve never erred are the ones who’ve attempted nothing. 

You build character in the arena of life, making mistakes and learning from them.

The person who repeats and doubles-down on awful behavior is one to get off of your team. 

I’ve seen leaders rationalize toxic behavior. “The jerk gets results.”

The chickens always come home to roost – sometimes with the toxic leader present, other times you realize it after the fact. 

Toxic leaders damage people, teams, and institutions.

3. Values matter. 

Don’t handwave your values with feel-good statements. 

Be clear on your standards and expectations. 

Set the right example. Every employee should know what right looks like, and your actions should be the model.

Let people know that violence, bullying, and name-calling are unacceptable, too. 

No matter how self-righteous a person thinks they are, the physical, mental, or emotional abuse of another human being is wrong and damaging. 

Politically-correct bigotry is still bigotry, and it’s not OK.

4. Build bridges, rather than walls.

Right now, your employees—like many Americans—may be bitterly divided along political lines. 

A diverse team with buy-in to a common purpose, shared objectives, and respectful dialogue has resilience.

Belittling or lecturing people who disagree with you is the fast-track to resentment and paralysis.

If you want to get things done, you need to go to the other person’s bus-stop and see the issue from their point of view.

When you can describe their view back to them and get, “that’s exactly right,” you are ready to find solutions to challenging problems.

Empathy is fundamental to gaining buy-in and getting things done.

5. Keep calm and don’t recycle outrage.

In social and broadcast media, outrageous is contagious. 

Peddling outrage undermines civil discourse. 

Competing animosities escalate and eventually explode. 

What is your #1 leadership lesson?

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