What People Teach Us: John McCain – Respecting Those Who Don’t Share Your Ideology
In light of Senator John McCain’s medical prognosis of having brain cancer, which was confirmed during surgery to remove a blood clot which had formed behind his eyebrow, appreciation for the Senator’s political demeanor and overall character has poured out from all over the world of politics and beyond.
The support and admiration for the Senator – a former navy pilot, who was a prisoner of war for over five years during the Vietnam War — crosses political parties and divides in a time where discord and disrespect have seemed to overtake politics across the U.S.
It is not only the service he gave for his country that has endeared him to his fans and supporters and opponents alike, but also his character when it comes to politics, an arena in which he is well-known for putting country before party.
As an example of that strong character, a well-known video has begun making the rounds again in the media which shows the Senator defending his then-opponent in the 2008 Presidential Election race, Barack Obama, against the disparaging remarks of a supporter who had the microphone at a rally event.
It was remarkable moment when, in hearing the woman’s remark, McCain begins shaking his head, takes the microphone back from his supporter, and corrects her by speaking highly of his opponent.
He pointed out that he and his rival did have their political differences but that Obama, overall, was a good man. And this wasn’t the only time he defended Obama, so it was a well-thought-out and firm position he took in doing so.
This type of correction and defense with regard to an opponent, reminding all that the issue is with the politics and not the person, is rare to find these days. A disagreement in one issue can poison the well of everything that might be possible in a relationship between two people.
In order to make sure that all parties are working in the best manner to advance the entire constituency, we need to make sure that we don’t tear down everything of what another person is, when reasonable.
So, for yourself, how do you distinguish the character of those you disagree with from the topic upon which you disagree?
Separating the person from the idea, when possible, demonstrates four attributes when it comes to how someone demonstrates their leadership.
Such a small action can demonstrate that it’s not about taking or exuding power all the time. That power isn’t the end-all, be-all. Granted, gaining power is the goal, but that it’s not about complete control over your opponent and the goal doesn’t need to be achieved at any cost.
It shows that you can stay in the lanes and argue the topics that need to be argued without going low or hitting under the belt on anything but the topics of the debate.
It also conveys a sense of self-awareness and that one can rein in their own ego or defenses to make themselves vulnerable by conveying something that might not be popular, taking that chance and making that point anyway.
By standing up in such a manner, this demonstrates integrity. You stand for what the people want, but, in fighting for that cause, it will not sway you from what you consider important personally for yourself.
This shows people that when you’re in a position of power, you will stand by your values. This is important because just as you may have your own personal values, you will have our own values regarding government, or business, or whatever the industry is in which you’re working.
If you will not surrender your own personal convictions that quickly, there’s a good chance that you’ll stick to what you’re saying with regard to policy and you’d be hard-pressed to forgo those commitments as well.
Much like with conviction, such a response can demonstrate understanding one’s position and what they stand for. But the fact that someone steps forward, understanding the risk they may be taking, that’s when confidence comes through.
Where conviction shows the strength behind someone’s idea, confidence allows them to stand up and convey it.
This shows someone is willing to step up, regardless of what might happen to the support they’ve held up until this point. Leaders need to take risks with regard to what it is they believe in.
The gesture shows that you’re not so locked into your position and you’re open-minded to see the good in people and what the possibilities might be.
It also shows people that you’re not locked into one mindset and you can give credit where credit is due, especially someone whom you may not agree with ideologically.
Also, there’s a good chance that in your own ranks you’ll come across people who don’t agree with you. By seeing a gesture play out like McCain’s, they know it will never get personal and that any disagreements can be addressed by arguing on the merits of each side’s position alone, and not the sting of disparaging personal attacks.
None of this is to say you always have to agree with your opponent on some level, but, at the very least, look for things you may respect.
In the end, it’s important to find some common ground with your opponent. Even if you win, it would benefit the overall constituency if you’re able to find common ground, something that everyone can get behind, whether it’s voters or stakeholders who might have been against you originally.
Disagreements and debates – they don’t have to be all or nothing. You can parse out and cull what you agree with from what you don’t.
What will you consider as off limits and out of bounds?