The other day, I saw a friend going through a significant amount of angst around whether to unfriend someone on Facebook.
Not the stuff of an exciting novel, but their situation did raise some interesting questions for me.
The crux of this person’s issue was whether to continue their active and visible support of a cause that is gathering much attention in our society at present. The issue has significant political, economic, sociological, and societal ramifications. Please feel free to spend a few minutes trying to guess which issue it is … I am not saying.
The other person is on an opposing side of this issue, about which my friend feels strongly. My friend believes that how our society deals with this issue will have profound impacts for many in a number of different ways.
The other person apparently feels equally strongly about the profound nature of the issue and the effects of the outcome for everyone.
These two people have been friends for most of their adult lives and have shared the raising of children, managing of careers, and personal traumas in abundance. On a personal level, they have each given much of deep and lasting value to each other.
For each person, although these are not their words, I think they believe their world would be paler and less joyful without the other person in it.
However, each also feels strongly about the issue and the long-term effects for them, their children and families, and for society. To choose to support the issue as they see it matters to them and to those they care about.
So the real question here is not which person is right or wrong … and it is not about the issue. Issues will always come between people.
The decision each of us has to make is this:
When it comes to decision time, do I choose the Greater Good or to sustain Personal Relationships?
We all have to answer this question, at least to some degree. With the swirling social, cultural, educational, economic, and political issues that face us, we probably do not have the luxury of only associating with or living with those who are in lockstep agreement with us on everything.
If you do have this type of life situation, you probably are either in a cult of some type or have decided that getting along with whoever you are around is more important than anything else.
But I am not asking whether you would rather “just get along” … we all probably would like that.
The question rephrased is this:
Which is more important to you: A good friendship or an ideal or value?
This relates to the well-known continuum used in the leadership development world to describe two ways of behavior as a manager or leader: One has an orientation toward Task (Achieving business goals and getting things done in the workplace) at one end and an orientation toward Relationship (Collaboration, connection, and maintaining relationships as the primary goal of leadership).
Of course, we are not completely anchored to one end or the other and the leadership environment in which we operate affects our orientation in a specific situation. Still, in general, we trend one direction or the other, and the more we have to work in the non-trend direction, the less comfortable we are.
Current progressive leadership thinking, as described in exciting new books like Mastering Leadership, supports the idea that an effective leader is able to focus on both task and relationship, and not moving too much toward one or the other.
My original and rephrased question is more personal though:
When you must choose between supporting a cause or an issue and maintaining a close relationship, which one wins your time, energy, and talents?
Well, I have asked the same basic question three different ways .. so YOU CHOOSE which version to respond to:)
Wondering about my own choices around issues and people in the Heartland ….
Title: If you are a Jack Nicholson fan, you know where this phrase came