Las Vegas Aftermath: As Leaders, Let Us Commit to Elevating the Discussion

Las Vegas Aftermath: As Leaders, Let Us Commit to Elevating the Discussion

By Jane Edison Stevenson, Vice Chairman, Board & CEO Services

None of us have a solution to fix our world so that we’ll never witness another tragedy like what we saw this week in Las Vegas.  What’s particularly troubling is that horrific events are happening with greater frequency and our society is becoming increasingly divided and insecure. While we may not have answers, as leaders, we need to think about our response.

We have choices as leaders. As we discuss the events of last week and the underlying issues, we need to account for our remarks and actions. Are we elevating the discussion and touching what is best in people or are we, perhaps unwittingly, increasing the sense of helplessness and fear among our colleagues and friends?

It’s important to affirm that there are exponentially more individuals on the planet committed to what’s right and good than there are aberrant individuals who wish to harm others. And, even in the midst of the Las Vegas tragedy, there were heroes: first responders who rushed unprotected into the ongoing carnage in an attempt to stop the shooting and save lives.

Neuro-science tells us that we’re not at our best when we’re afraid.  We fall back into a fight or flight mindset from which it’s difficult to access our best thoughts and formulate effective, creative solutions to the problems confronting us. We are living in an era that requires our best thinking and our most creative solutions.  We cannot afford to stay in a mindset of fear.

Leadership requires courage. Aristotle called courage the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues possible. A courageous leader will face difficult problems and move forward despite opposition, incomplete information, and risk of failure.

The best leaders are also vulnerable. A vulnerable leader is willing to stay open, does not insist on being the smartest person in the room, and will listen and thoughtfully embrace the perspectives and opinions of others.

I’m reminded of a quote: “Not all those who wander are lost” from The Lord of the Rings. There are no easy answers to the Las Vegas shooting or other difficult issues confronting our society. If we face problems with courage and vulnerability and always seek to bring out the best in others, we’re not lost. Solutions will emerge.

Albert Einstein once said, “How do I work? I grope.” It’s extraordinary that one of the greatest scientists in history would use the word “grope” to describe his work process. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for all of us.

When we’re operating from a fight-or-flight/boxed-in mindset, we’re unable to generate the breakthrough ideas and discoveries needed to transform the world – or heal evil.  If we wish to move forward from the tragedies in Las Vegas and elsewhere, we will need to avoid blame, simplistic responses, and divisiveness and explore new avenues, remaining curious about different points of view.  We must be willing to “grope” or “wander” as we find a better way.

Society may very well be at a turning point. As leaders at this critical time, let us endeavor to build trust, affirm what is best in all of us, and with courage and humility help to unite people around enduring principles of hope and a common purpose.