"I am human, only because you are human."
African Proverb/Allan Boesak

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

Word count this issue: 432

Estimated reading time:   3:20

Video: https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=-tvevBmOhiY 


Greetings from Vancouver, where the spring flowers are beginning to show. There is hope.


We were out for a walk last weekend, and had a most interesting conversation about ‘justification’. For example, a colleague calls and I justify my decision not to pick up by saying to myself, “I’m very busy, and I’ll get back to them.” I justify my decision to run a yellow light as it turns red with “I’m really busy and don’t have time, and besides, everybody does it.” In organizations, we justify decisions that hurt other humans by saying, “it’s just business, there’s nothing personal.” And justification appears in serious social matters as well; some might justify the killing of another human being because they were on my property. Others might justify access to automatic weapons as a right to protect myself and family from criminals, over the deaths of school children caused by a man with automatic weapons.


In all these cases, we are making a decision that at some level is at least questionable, and then justifying it.  And that, it seems to me, makes justification not just a habit, something more. Lots of things that we know are at least questionable, if not morally or legally wrong are ok, as long as we can make it seem that way. And most especially justification becomes that much more compelling when we can find a group of people who agree with us.


I appreciate that I am challenging ground here, especially on issues around which we differ on moral grounds. My public support of LGBTQ+ rights, as one example may well be seen by some as my justifying my way forward on a moral issue. (And I am happy to explore these with individuals in conversation.) And, I think we are all too often justifying our decisions as leaders so much that justification has become a basic thread in the fabric of our working world. As long as I can justify it to myself, it’s ok.


That is not a good thing. People are being bullied because that is just business. 


My colleague Olivia McIvor (kindness-speaks.com ) has a good way of engaging your thinking brain in the midst of decisions and conversations. As you make a decision, as you begin to open your mouth, ask yourself three questions;


  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it kind?


I suggest that if you use these three important questions you’ll find the best direction for your decision and conversations, and that you will have to justify yourself less often.



I am curious about what you think?