This is a message for those Trump supporters who claim they don’t condone who the president is, just his policies—especially those who claim to be people of faith.
You may think you can get away with pretending that you can separate the leader from the strategy. But you can’t and we won’t let you. It’s not only the leaders we follow that define us. We’re also defined by the strategies our leaders articulate and advance, and by the support we give them.
The dominant strategy used in politics is to draw a contrast. Today, that contrast is clear.
This lesson holds true far beyond politics. There is a fundamental question that we all have to answer when it comes to supporting or implementing someone else’s strategy: What does this strategy, and its impact, say about me?
Sadly, as the real purpose behind the strategy is exposed, many of you continue to reveal who you really are.
My caution goes beyond Trump and his MAGA-hat wearing fans. After all, when you point a finger at someone else, four fingers point right back at you.
I’m also reminding those of us who are repulsed by what we’re witnessing on a national stage to also apply an activist eye toward the cultures we inhabit and create every day.
The strategies we support say a lot about us. They reveal who and what we value.
I wish many more of us would face this question and have the courage to answer it. Unfortunately, far too many people hide behind excuses…like, “new directions are bound to create some discomfort” or “you can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time.”
It is not uncommon for a strategy to cause some discomfort. After all, one of the most common reasons we turn to strategy is because we’re not satisfied with the status quo. However, when the strategy shifts from causing discomfort and increasing the sense of urgency to actually hurting people and creating pain, we have to ask why? Was this accidental or deliberate?
Too often, I’ve worked with leaders and organizations where the answer left me disturbed. The strategy, in and of itself, was a method to inflict pain on people. The hurt was the strategy. It was a strategy that revealed the disdain the leaders had for the people. It was a strategy designed to get people to leave—to inflict so much pain that people would understand that they were of little value and they would leave—either physically or psychologically.
My experience has led me to conclude that very few strategies inflict pain on the people carrying them out by accident. More often than not, I’ve observed, strategies hurt people by design.
The most recent government shutdown in the United States is an example of a strategy that crossed the line. It didn’t just make people uncomfortable. The shutdown damaged people—financially and psychologically. I know because I’ve been serving clients in government for nearly 15 years now. Once again, the strategy went too far. Just skim the headlines over the last month and that becomes clear.
So, once you’ve seen behind the curtain, how much are you willing to do and to ignore before your complicity becomes part of the strategy itself?
As an impetus for action, you can make people feel uncomfortable, but don’t set out to hurt them. Wounded people rarely become willing participants in change, let alone convincing champions for it.
There is an opaque boundary line separating discomfort from pain. Although it might not be visible to the naked eye, faithful people can sense where it is.
About the author: Dr. A.J. Robinson is the founder and CEO of Symphonic Strategies, a firm that specializes in collective action, leadership development, and systems change. He’s a strategist, teacher, and activist for policies and practices that elevate. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership at the George Washington University and is an adjunct faculty member at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.