Kindness, Dignity & Accountability
This past festive season has been surreal to say the least. The bush fire catastrophe across Australia has demonstrated the best of Australian culture and community spirit, and the best and worst of Australian leadership. Many of us feel sadness, disappointment, frustration and anger, yet we have hope and gratitude in our hearts too. We have witnessed so many acts of kindness by Australians and especially others around the world, at a community level.
It caused me to reflect on what I learnt from Michelle Obama, who I had the pleasure of listening to in Singapore in December 2019, and would like to share wih you. Michelle would be one of the most humble, funny, smart and compassionate people I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Her words caused me to reflect on the past year and think about the year ahead.
The final question of the Evening with Michelle Obama was: “What do you think are the most important things in life, and what you’ve learnt, given your life’s journey to date?” She paused thoughtfully, and then said:
“Kindness, dignity and accountability.” “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in life, it’s the power of using your voice. I tried as often as I could to speak the truth and shed light on the stories of people who are often brushed aside.”
I recently wrote a blog titled Kindness, a tool for social change, where I made the observation that every day, we get to make a choice – to be right or to be kind! I followed this by saying kindness did more good in society than being right. I was delighted to hear the former First Lady say the most important thing in life is kindness. So, I looked up the dictionary definition of kindness. Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Michelle and Barack Obama have been and continue to be, all these three qualities. They are friendly in all interactions, generous with their time and considerate of others in their dealing. Here are the questions I asked myself as we closed 2019 and welcomed in 2020:
- Have I sought to be kind rather than right in all situations? How can I continue to develop my capacity for kindness?
- When generous with my time or resources, am I deploying them to those who need and appreciate it the most? Do I acknowledge the generosity of others appropriately?
- How can I show greater consideration for others and their needs?
I pondered on the meaning of dignity and found that dignity is defined as the quality of being worthy of honour or respect. Respect is one of my core values and it is why discrimination in any shape or form is abhorrent to me. If we want respect, we must demonstrate respect. It is why I believe mutual respect at work and in society is a must for good leaders, not a nice to have. And yet there is so much disrespectful displayed by political, business and religious leaders around the world that people increasingly no longer trust or respect these leaders. Political leaders for perceived short-term gain are too focused on bad mouthing their opposition and anyone who disagrees with them, business leaders lie to their clients and regulatory authorities whilst many religious leaders protect people in their organisations proven to have committed heinous crimes against humanity.
The questions I am asking myself are:
- Am I respectful in all my dealings? If not, what do I need to change within myself?
- Am I listening and being “fully present” in all my face-to-face interactions? This is the ultimate way to demonstrate respect to others, and that they are important to you in that moment
- Am I willing to call out disrespectful behaviours when I encounter them at work and in society? Am I courageous enough NOT to be a bystander?
And finally, I looked up the definition of accountability which is defined as the ability to control plus being able to answer for something. To be accountable means to be subject to giving an account or having the obligation to report, explain or justify something.
Most of the world’s current leadership demonstrate a complete lack of accountability. Blame is too easily and automatically deflected to others, excuses are made, questions from the public and media are ignored, and scape goats are sought everywhere. People around the world have lost respect for their leaders at historic levels as they witness this complete lack of accountability, honesty and transparency. More and more people across all generations are protesting and taking matters into their own hands as they have lost faith in their leaders.
The questions to ask yourself are:
- Do I hold myself accountable for my actions, especially when I have made a mistake or behaved badly?
- Do I look for something or someone to blame rather than ask what I could have done better?
- What am I willing to change to be a better person, a kinder person, a more considerate person, striving for honesty in my dealings with others?
I invite you to reflect on the year ahead and to ask these questions of yourself and share with others that they too may reflect on the year past and the one ahead.
In the words of Michelle Obama:
“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can embrace the ways we are the same. It’s not about being perfect. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others.”
My wish for you, your team, your organisation and your loved ones for 2020 is: be kind, be respectful, be considerate of those who may be lonely, unwell or feeling that they don’t matter, be accountable for your choices and your behaviour, let others in, listen and be optimistic about 2020 and beyond. We live in a world that thanks to technology has never been more connected yet has rarely been so divisive as well; let’s use our connectivity to course correct away from division and exclusion.
And finally, remember self-care is NOT selfish!