Last Tuesday night, the nation witnessed the most stunning political victory in recent history as Donald Trump unseated odds-on favorite, Hillary Clinton, for the presidency. At the same time, Trump’s triumph cleaved a centuries-deep fissure of pain and fear into the American psyche. Since his win, tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in cities across the nation, in mostly peaceful demonstrations that reject his political message, with a few morphing into riots and arrests, and one this weekend in which a protestor was shot. Equally disturbing are the incidents of Hispanic children being taunted in school and threatened with a looming wall that would result in their deportation from the only country they’ve ever known. Nazi swastikas have been painted on storefronts and racial slurs and images of lynching have been posted on a group messaging service, rekindling the worst of the country’s recollections of ethnic strife and injustice. Like every leader coming into a new position, President-elect Trump must assess the hand he’s been dealt, and in this case, he has inherited a deeply divided nation, in part of his own making.
While political strategists and media pundits debate who will bring the needed governing capabilities to an Oval Office soon to be occupied by a leader who has never held a political position, I am equally concerned about who will bring the passions necessary to repair the unraveling culture of our country. In previous articles, I’ve described the ten Passion Archetypes critical to a leadership team, but rarely have the passions of Healer and Connector been so important to our nation’s survival. In these early days of structuring his cabinet, President-elect Trump would be wise to examine the passions of the people he is considering for his team, as well as the skills they offer. He will need Healers to help him address the raw wounds inflicted by a long season of hate-filled rhetoric, now on a replay loop in the minds of nearly half of the country. For some individuals, who are pleased with the election results, there is a hesitancy to celebrate, because doing so could associate them with the ugliest elements of this election cycle. But for many, this is a time of agony and disbelief, where the journey through the stages of grief is a tortuous one. These individuals need support, understanding and reassurance that they are valued members of our society. The incoming administration’s Healers will have a challenging job, as they work to salve the nation’s pain, and counsel the new President on modulating his tone and approach. Words matter, and people in pain remember them.
In addition to Healers, this incoming administration will need Connectors, people with the passion to re-anneal a divided nation by reaching out to others to bridge differences, regardless of their point of view. Connectors will help bring the opinions of each party to the decision-making table, so that the President-elect benefits from a studied perspective of every side of an issue, where others’ viewpoints are respectfully considered. Without the support of Connectors, the nation will likely experience four more years of political infighting, even with dominant Republican representation in Congress. In the end, the American people will be the ones to suffer.
For leaders everywhere, this is a time for vigilance and re-affirmation. It is unlikely that your organization will escape the effects of a national culture in crisis, anymore than the corporate and university teams that I’ve worked with since the election, whose leaders are observing post-election grief in the workforce. They are reporting spontaneous occurrences of employees bursting into tears, and others who are unable to function effectively on the job, while stressed-out coworkers toil overtime to take up the slack in productivity. In this transformative time in our nation, all leaders must pay special attention to the pulse of their organization’s culture, and provide extra support to those in greatest need.
This is perhaps one of the most defining leadership moments in your career, where you have an opportunity to re-affirm the values of your organization, embrace the passions of your people, and reestablish a safe and welcoming space for everyone in your workforce, despite what is happening in the larger world. With so many feeling untethered and identity-stripped, it is your responsibility to give the people on your team something to believe in, so the organization can benefit from their best days ahead.