There is an old parable about the wind and the sun and a man with a coat. The wind and sun make a bet challenging the other to get the coat off the man. The wind blows and blows but the man holds tighter onto his coat and the wind is not strong enough to force it off. The sun takes her turn and simply shines her rays. As the man becomes too hot, he voluntarily removes the coat and the sun wins the challenge.
The moral of the story is that force creates a closed, defensive stance while warmth invites voluntary agreement.
Most of us know this logically but few of us execute it rationally and frequently. Why? Because in our own frustration of others, we are oftentimes hindered in our ability to think clearly. In highly emotional and agitated states, we struggle to see the forest for the trees and thus aim to speak more, yell louder, prove our point….which surely will convince the recipient of our brilliance. But alas, it is in fact the act of listening that can often provide the greatest opportunity for understanding and ultimately for success.
In a commonly stated position by the current Secretary of Defense, Secretary Mattis, he advocates for a two prong approach to defense: The power of inspiration backed by the power for intimidation. In national and international leadership, much like the parable and Secretary Mattis’s beliefs, it is in our best interest to recognize the benefits of using metaphorical sunshine to elicit compliance and buy in. It is frequently a stronger position to be the listener in the relationship rather than the one dictating the outcomes.
Remember: If others are provided a plan, they will become your critic but if they are part of the solution, they will be your champion.
Across the country and across the world, it is in our best interest to bring our people together, to listen to one another, to find common ground, and to invite the world to join us because it is the strongest position we can take as a world leader – it is the most effective method for creating agreement at scale.