What Do You Stand For?

This is an expression I have come across a lot and I am pausing for thought and sharing some stories and ideas which I hope may amuse, cause pause and even inspire.
What do you stand for? I regularly ask this of groups of young leaders; they are soon to be called managers and will need to lead by demonstrating their vision of the team or department and by showing how they are worthy of that team, in their style and servitude (I am a great believer in servant leadership – see Robert Dilts for more). As a leader, what do you stand for and do others see this and agree?
What do you stand for? We humans will fight wars over our beliefs and become outraged when our values are dismissed by others. Yet sometimes I find I don’t know what I think until I hear myself saying it with passion, we don’t truly know unless and until we are tested. One simple question we can ask is: What is important to you…about: life, work, family, friends, teamwork or even our reading and watching habits. Asking this question to ourselves or of others will usually get a list of ‘criteria’, words or sentences and if you then test each against each other (you choose only one each time), we can get a clear hierarchy, which can be very valuable in building and maintaining relationships.
What do you stand for? Do we stand up for ourselves? I was privileged to come across a most marvellous demonstration of assertiveness, from a young woman and a very senior older and much larger man. The situation was a conference, the woman, one of the organisers and the man a Director, surrounded by his senior colleagues. He wasn’t happy…seeing her standing there he decided to lambast her with all his great might and proceeded to make a fool of her, telling her how badly she was performing and showing how powerful he was. She stood there and when he had finished, she simply said to him; “I have clearly upset you and if you tell me exactly what it is I have done, I will make sure it doesn’t happen again”. The effect was remarkable, because he suddenly looked much smaller in front of his colleagues, but not due to her behaviour, due to his outburst. She remained standing as a professional holding out a reasonable approach to find a solution.
What do you stand for? Do you tolerate a situation that perhaps you should or could not? I was once challenged at a coffee machine, in offering a cup to a visitor and in doing so, saying “it’s pretty grim, but you get used to it”, they said “why do you tolerate it?”, a great question to which I had no reply I am slightly ashamed to say. However, I balance this with my reasoning over leaving a job at one point and yet might I have done more? My company was promoting a manager who I had strong reason to believe was a bully, this person achieved great results in terms of numbers, but the cost in human misery was high as well. For me, I found that working there was too uncomfortable, even though the manager in question didn’t directly impact me, I felt I couldn’t work for an organisation who would turn an apparently blind eye to this behaviour. There were of course many other values and beliefs at play here, but I felt I had made a stand, at least to myself!
What do you stand for? Maybe this is more, who do you stand for? My mother always taught us boys that we should stand when a woman came into the room, as teenagers, we found it hard to stand up full stop, lounging around in the holidays especially, but the principle still holds…just about, in this day and age and in some contexts, although business is a great leveller and we tend to stand for seniority not gender and not much even then. What about our national anthems, some nations are passionate about this practice, others less so, again I am proud of my heritage and enjoy the pride I feel when I stand for this practice. But what about buses and trains? I was talking to an older gentleman, who told me that the day before he offered his seat to a pregnant woman on a bus, only to be told ‘she didn’t need it and he was assuming she wasn’t capable enough’, I found this a hard story to hear, but maybe it’s just me and who I would stand for.
So, what do you stand for? All of these stories and ideas show how the concept says something about us, and to us as well as others, if we listen and pay attention. Right now, think about your own recent events, what stance have you taken? What are you proud of, what would you change?
I will be tweeting #what I stand for, come and join me and let’s see if we can start a trend.