Leaders offer the best of themselves. They behave in ways that dignify them as human beings. They don’t use words as weapons and they don’t trivialize words that are core emotional drivers of positive relationships.
Our cultural milieu has become increasingly more hostile. Between the public prosecution of trust (the war on truth, scientific knowledge, facts, experts, empirical evidence, etc…), the absence of decorum, and a flat-out rejection of a polite society, we have lost our way. We may be setting the stage for the next lost generation as our children are witnesses to how divided we have become as a society.
We have seemingly lost our interest (and perhaps the ability) to look outward, instead we are increasingly looking inward, where we see only ourselves.
The appalling lack of probity and resultant harshness is playing out before everyone’s eyes on social media as the polarizing consequences of identity politics and targeting are on center stage for all the world to see. It’s not very dignified. It’s not very tender. Tenderness dignifies us as human beings, but its realization is dependent on inner peace, emotional maturity, and self-knowledge.
Lots of people appear to be running away from themselves, making emotional tenderness a distant reach. In today’s hostile environment tenderness is needed more than ever.
Tenderness manifests itself as care, affection, and empathy, all qualities undervalued in today’s leaders and largely absent from the stage of education, where hostility has become increasingly more popular and using words as weapons has become fashionable. The core image of the idealized leader is fleeting. When something is as savagely alive as today’s cultural milieu it’s difficult to stand tall. But the leader who exudes style, grace, intelligence, and discipline can create an environment that marginalizes less becoming behavior and rewards behavior worthy of the eyes and ears of innocents.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has eloquently framed the discussion by noting the flames of resentment and division are stoked daily. We as leaders have to put the fire out by rejecting weaponizing words and replacing them with tenderness.