What People Teach Us: Jeff Flake – Environment vs. Principles. How Much Is ENOUGH?

When is enough enough for you?

This week, Arizona junior United State Senator Jeff Flake, a detractor of the President’s since early on in the presidential campaign season, gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in which he came out against and denounced the current state of U.S. politics and the President’s role in perpetuating the negativity, telling the President “ENOUGH!”

In an attempt to avoid a perceived complicity in the devolution of political system, Flake announced he would not seek reelection in January 2019 and would instead retire, knowing he would face steep odds in maintaining his seat as his favorability numbers tank in his district while those of the President remain high. In addition to those hurdles, he himself has maintained a high position on Steven Bannon’s political hit list.

Now, this post isn’t meant to take any position on Flake’s assertions or decisions. It merely asks us to consider, in general, in our lives and work, how our environment matches up to what we hold valuable.

How do we reconcile what we expect of ourselves versus what we expect of the environment?

Admittedly, Flake’s decision to retire isn’t all based on principle alone. He’s seen the writing on the wall, having fallen into the unfavorable column with his constituents. But, to his credit, he was against the President’s approach, policy, and demeanor early on, and so his principled demeanor can’t be entirely dismissed.

Would Flake be more popular if he compromised his beliefs and went along with the President’s agenda and leadership instead? There’s a clear divide: there are the Republicans who will not go along easily with what the President has laid out, and those who have, each for a variety of reasons and motivations. Some have picked country over party while others have remained silent.

Flake, like some other members of congress, could possibly have saved his standing and reputation in Congress had he compromised. But he chose not to, instead opting not to acquiesce to the expectation of the President’s supporters in his district.

So what’s the leadership consideration here? The word “consideration” is used intentionally instead of “lesson” because there is no clear-cut answer. Each of us can only be called upon to consider where our external environment stands when compared to our own internal principles. And the circumstances, consideration, and outcomes differ from situation to situation.

Our environment may not be the same as that in which Flake has had to both work and ponder his path, but there will come a time when we all need to weigh what we believe versus what is dominant in the environment.

What do you do, or have you done, when the two have not reconciled?

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