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Do You Respect Differences?

Do You Respect Differences?

Time for reflection is very important for our mental, physical and emotional well-being, and our ability to engage in self-care. I think it is indicative of our “busyness” that the number one workers compensation claims today are stress related, rather than physical injuries. Stress is also the most significant contributor to ill health. And yet we work harder and harder, much of which is driven by fear of loss of security through loss of employment. Yes, things are challenging economically in Australia and around the world, however, I believe there is too much fear-mongering and negativity, which simply compounds many irrational fears.

Why are we so afraid of so many things? We have become a society which fears anything and anyone who are different. We have become more close-minded, yet many are challenging why we are thinking and behaving this way, and so we should.

Some of our irrational fears at present include the following:

  • Allowing more women into senior leadership roles will positively discriminate against men, or as described by Tony Abbott last week is “anti-men”! Really?
  • The continued resistance to quotas for women on private sector boards, argued against by one of our most respected non-executive directors and chairmen, David Gonski
  • Increasing female participation in male-dominated industries, e.g. construction, firefighting will diminish the skill level and competence of the industry
  • The hysteria surrounding pay equity, especially in sport because women’s sport is not as important, or as good as men’s sport! Really? The Australian women’s soccer team is ranked 8th in the world, while the men’s team is ranked 50th in the world. And yet women’s sport gets less than a third of the financial sponsorship and media attention mens’ sport gets!
  • Boat people and refugees will take our jobs and don’t need our help. Why are we so loath to recognise the amazing achievements of so many Australian migrants? Why do we focus only on our own negative perceptions?
  • Marriage equality will cause the demise of traditional marriage and a break down in society’s values. No one person has the right to impose their religious or moral beliefs on another. What happened to simple human rights and the right to love freely?
  • Victims of domestic violence shouldn’t speak about it publically, because it isn’t “nice”, and it’s a private matter. Thank you to the Army and the current Chief of Army, Lt. General Angus Campbell for the courage to speak openly and publicly about domestic violence and its scary impact on others, and developing educational tools to assist affected people
  • Young people are not as committed and hard working as older generations
  • Old people no longer have value to add, and can be disrespected and manipulated by unscrupulous people. Take note of the current case of abuse of the elderly – financially by Aveo/Freedom Retirement Centres! Absolutely appalling and the government stands by and chooses to do nothing
  • Charity starts at home, therefore we need to cut foreign aid to third world countries
  • Freedom of speech is dangerous, and those with dissenting views should be silenced or punished.

Politicians and elements of the press promote comments and stories that are designed to increase fear, leading to greater intolerance, scepticism, lack of trust and respect for those who are different. When did we become this politically-correct, scared and distrusting society?

I have long believed that with conformity all we get is more of the same, and doing the same things over and over again will simply deliver the same results. If you change nothing, then nothing changes.

Too many leaders in public roles, religious institutions, the private and public sectors, are leading through fear, command and control, when what we need are courageous leaders, who are authentic, act with integrity for the greater good of the people, and communicate open and honestly with transparency. Courage is doing the right things, not the popular things. Leadership is also about embracing diversity, rather than seeing diversity as “threatening”.

Leadership is about listening first, before speaking, and being open to differences of opinion, exploring the best solutions to the problems we face. The problems of the future cannot be solved at the same level of thinking as yesterday. Most importantly, leadership is the about the “Power of One”, yes that means it starts with each one of us first, then through leading others. What assumptions, stereotypes, thinking and behaviours do you need to change for a more productive, inclusive and collaborative future?

Change is a choice you make!


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