"If we could hang all our sorrows on pegs and were allowed to choose those we liked best, everyone of us would take back his own, for all the rest would seem even more difficult to bear."
Rabbi Nahum of Stepinesht

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 328

Estimated reading time:  2:30 minutes



Good morning, from a stormy Sunshine Coast.


In the midst of your work as a leader, you will sometimes find that one person on your team seems to push your ‘buttons.’ Maybe they are late a little too often, or they don’t complete projects to your satisfaction. What ever the cause, at first you might have what the philosopher Paul Ricoeur https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Ricœur called a First Naiveté; you take what they say and do at face value. Eventually though, as their behaviour continues,  you begin to see them with what Ricoeur called a “hermeneutic of suspicion” that will often colour how you see them; ‘they are always late,’ ‘they never deliver,’ or ‘they just tick me off.’   And herein lies danger. 


A good  question for each of us as leaders is, ‘what am I doing or not doing that is enabling the behaviour in the other person?’ This question might lead to,  ‘What if I speak up much earlier next time?’ What specifically am I condoning here simply because I don’t want the hassle?’  By engaging in such self-reflection questions, we might begin to see the person’s behaviour through what Ricoeur called a “Second Naiveté.” Such a lens explores  “what do I want to have happen here?” “where is there behaviour from this person that I welcome?” or even, “what can I learn about myself in this situation?”



The danger of a “hermeneutic of suspicion” about a member of a team is that we too quickly morph their behaviour into who they are to us. A second naiveté pushes us away from telling ourselves all that is wrong is wrong with a person, and towards asking what good might be seen in them and what might we learn from them?